Brooklyn-based 20-year-old songwriter Ben Kweller, already a nine-year industry vet since launching his career from his native Texas, may be remembered for many things. To some, he’s the singer/guitarist of the bubblegrunge wanna-be band Radish, who aimed to be America’s answer to Silverchair in the post-grunge sweepstakes. Others may know him as the goofy anti-folk-inspired performer he remodeled himself as last year for solo tours with Evan Dando, and for his witty version of "BK Baby," a memorable acoustic riff off Vanilla Ice’s "Ice, Ice, Baby." And to those just tuning in for Sha Sha — Kweller’s full-length debut on Dave Matthews’s ATO Records — he will likely best be remembered for the best Weezer songs Rivers Cuomo didn’t write for their recent "Green Album."
On Sha Sha Kweller mixes the crunchy power pop of Weezer on "Harriet’s Got a Song," "Commerce, TX," and "Make It Up," as well as the piano-cradled vocal harmonies of Ben Folds on "Falling" and "In Other Words," and he mixes in a little post-Pavement postgraduate guitar rock with "Wasted and Ready" and "No Reason." Along the way touches of Jonathan Richman, Evan Dando, and even Cat Stevens creep into his hummable tunes. But what keeps all this from being merely derivative is Kweller’s cynical but slacker-free attitude. Sha Sha is a snapshot of the artist as a young man whose good taste continues to lead him in promising directions and who, if he keeps it up, will likely be remembered in the end for penning hook-laden songs that are all his own.
(Ben Kweller plays the Paradise this Saturday, May 11. Call 617-562-8800.)