Enthusiasm is what singer/songwriter Ben Kweller brings to his work. Ramones-like perennial goofy-teenager attitude and lack of antipathy are his golden attributes, and the combination of his keen songwriting sense makes Kweller a pop powerhouse. Following his self-released demo, Freak Out It's Ben Kweller, and the following EP, Kweller spreads out with more pop songs and sounds on this full-length studio album. Underscoring the songwriting skill he's been working at since age eight, he plays acoustic, folk-rock, alternative, power pop, and straight-ahead rock of the course of 11 songs. His lyrics are consistently heart-sung, but they aren't lite -- he's got weight and bite, too. Kweller isn't afraid to wear his top-drawer influences on his sleeve, either: "No Reason" soars on guitar like a Weezer or Frank Black tune, and he sings "noooooo reason to cry" with the same vehemence with which Johnny Rotten once sang "nooooo future." "Commerce, TX" smells like grunge rock, but its commentary on the slacker lifestyle keeps it self-aware. He recuts his epic "In Other Words," a winding, melancholic piano rocker with a jam that is straight off a '70s vintage Elton John record. "Walk on Me" and "How It Should Be (Sha Sha)," though power pop through and through, are pure Kweller -- bright, witty, fun, sweet diaries of hard-to-grapple-with feelings translated into two-to-three-minute bursts of self-empowered joy. Isn't that how all rock & roll should be?
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AllMusic Review by Denise Sullivan