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Aug 12

Ben Kweller: “Walk on Me”

Ben Kweller -- Sha Sha

“Say, Ben? Could you maybe brush your teeth before the cover shoot next time?”

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When Ben Kweller first appeared on the scene in 1996 at the tender age of 15 as part of his band Radish (which he’d started when he was 12), achieving a lot of hyped-up press at the time over a label bidding war, Kweller took on the role of an older musician, trying to have his music taken more seriously than you might typically take the music of a young teen. Unfortunately, that sort of backfired, and the resulting album was a bit of a dud. But then he went solo, and began to turn back the clock. In 2002, he released his second — and very possibly best — solo album, Sha Sha, full of catchy, hummable, light-hearted songs that capture the joyfulness of a goofball teen — the kind of music you might have expected from him prior to his turning 20, but it apparently took a bit of maturity for Kweller to shed the facade of overseriousness, a la Dylan’s “My Back Pages”: “I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now.”

And thank goodness for that — it turned out that Kweller was one of the best songwriters of his generation, coming from the Nick Lowe/Evan Dando school of songwriting: catchy guitar pop with a twist of humor sprinkled throughout. And on “Walk on Me,” he penned what I see as a Lowe/Rockpile tribute, whether that’s how he meant it or not, sounding like a followup to Lowe’s “When I Write the Book.” He even pulls out a Lowe-style trick of increasing the energy of the song toward the end by moving it up a key in the final chorus.

Kweller is one of indie rock’s ultimate nice guys, and that could hardly be more apparent in “Walk on Me,” where he pleads with his possibly soon-to-be-ex girlfriend not to be spiteful, and to remember that love isn’t ever really that easy:

Love is supposed to be this bad
Make you cry mega ultra sad
If i told you you’re all i ever had
Would you walk on me? ‘Cause I wouldn’t walk on you

On the Internet lyrics sites, you’ll see that first line as “Love ain’t supposed to be this bad,” but listen closely to the song and you’ll see that it’s almost certainly “is,” even if it would be more expected to hear “ain’t.” And that’s the key to the chorus: Love is hard — hang in there and don’t be too hard on me. The “mega ultra sad” line is Kweller at his endearingly dorkiest, and it’s a thread that runs throughout Sha Sha, as well as, to a lesser degree, his later albums — it’s simply impossible not to like the guy. Not to mention this song…

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