When Ben Kweller was writing his new album, Go Fly A Kite, he was definitely mad at someone. This is not to say that the songs have to be autobiographical, but the lyrical themes of anger, loss, betrayal and, at the end of the record, resolution are not hidden. After 2009’s country-tinged Changing Horses, he has returned to the 1970s-influenced brand of indie power-pop of his first three albums. Country Kweller has its charm, but it’s nice to have him return to his classic sound. What makes Ben Kweller’s records interesting is that he doesn’t write just one style of song. With Go Fly A Kite, he writes rockers, ballads, waltzes and folky-influenced mid-tempo tunes, yet each song fits well musically next to the other.
The album opens with a kick in the teeth with the rockin’ “Mean To Me” with its gritty guitar tones and driving drums. The song “Jealous Girl” sounds like the cousin of Kweller’s 2006 jem “Penny On A Train Track” with its triumphant sounding piano intro and big sing-along-inducing chorus. The following track “Gossip” has the feel of something off of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band album with it’s simple waltzing piano and no frills drumming, also the way Kweller delivers the word “dowhahahown” is very Lennonesque. The next song “Free” has some sweet 1970s country-rock harmonies in its chorus and a groovin’ guitar solo, before switching into a more pop-folk vein for “Full Circle”. However, the best song on the record is “Time Will Save The Day” which rips to life sounding like the power-pop love child of Bob Dylan and Kurt Cobain. The rhyme structure of the choruses is very tight and drive the song along while the chorus opens up very melodically making the song a lot of fun. Lastly, the album comes to satisfying and bouncy up-tempo conclusion with “You Can Count On Me”. The track brings in more rich 1970s folk-rock harmonies while Kweller delivers a message of optimism and comfort with: “When your lost and you need new eyes to see, you can count on me”.
In the end, Go Fly A Kite doesn’t let Kweller fans down. It’s more complex than what listeners might hear the first time they give it a spin. As of now, it is the best record I’ve heard in 2012. I think buying the whole album is a worthy investment, but if you’re a single-song buyer, the essentials are: “Time Will Save The Day”, “Jealous Girl” “Mean To Me” and “Free”.