As promised, here is the third and final part of my “K” music review:
KLASSE KRIMINALE – “INTERNATIONAL SOLDIER”
When I was at the music store in Palmares, this album caught my attention straight off because of the doubling-up of K’s in the group’s name. It kept my attention when I noticed that many of the song titles were in Italian, and that the album seemed to have been produced in Germany. Hmm, could I have possibly stumbled on a bona-fide Fascist punk album tucked away in the middle of Central America? As it turns out, the album actually has a little badge on the back that says: “We support Cable Street Beat; Strictly Antifascist.” So, in terms of avoiding the moral implications that come with buying music that was literally made by Fascists, this was a good thing, but in terms of having interesting things to write about in a mock music review, this was a negative development.
Basically, this album appears to come from what seemed at first to me like a brilliant, unexplored genre: Continental-Eurotrash Punkrock! However, when I actually listened to the songs, I wasn’t as psyched. See, the songs actually are mostly in Italian, and I don’t know crap about Italian. If you couple that with the fact that I usually have trouble understanding song lyrics in any language, plus the fact that punk lyrics are nearly indecipherable anyhow, then you basically have a fairly loud album with a lot of unintelligible shouting.
The style is mainly a ska-ish style of punk; it’s not unlike an unpolished Ska-P, which is a Spanish ska band whose lyrics I also can’t understand. The songs on “International Soldier” are individually pretty decent, but after listening to 3 or 4 of them, it’s hard to tell if you’re still listening to “Me Wanna Change Le Monde,” or if you’ve moved on to “Tu Vieni Da Garageland.” By the end of the last track (“Oi! Fatti Una Risata”…whatever the fuck that means), you just feel like putting on some good, old-fashioned Eurotrash Girliepop to cleanse the palate.
This album is best heard when played loudly over the speakers in a shitty Fiat on the way to an anti-fascist rally in Genoa featuring bad Clash cover bands and 1-Euro cups of grappa.
BEN KWELLER – “BEN KWELLER”
It has recently come to my attention that everyone named Ben is a good guy. Or, at least every Ben that I’ve ever heard of is. Maybe you have childhood stories about some asshole Ben who pinned you on the ground and dangled loogies over your face. If you do, I’ll thank you not to share them with me. But enough theoretical anecdotal evidence aside; let’s look at the facts:
-Ben Kingsley is a great actor, at least judging by “Gandhi” and “Sneakers,” the only two movies of his I’ve seen.
-Ben Schneider is a friend of mine, and he’s a great guy.
Good enough for me!
Also, on the musical front, Ben’s been kicking some ass. You’ve got Ben E. King, Ben Harper, Ben Folds, and Ben Kweller.
This self-titled album is actually Kweller’s third album, and it’s arguably his best. It’s also arguably his worst. How can this be, you ask? Well, Kweller’s style is all about putting out ditties that are solidly-enough rooted in rock to bring in the guys, but poppy and quirky enough to keep the girls from leaving mid-album. This has been the case for his three albums, and the resulting musical style seems to have remained consistent throughout. So, there are definitely songs that I like more than others, but they all generally fall into the category of “Sincerely Semi-Ironic Acoutsi-Pop” (Somebody get me a trademark for that term, stat!).
For evidence of this, just look at his album covers, and when you spy his curly brown mop-hair, you’ll know what I mean. For his first album, “Sha Sha” (a great album that my buddy Dustin turned me on to), Kweller’s wearing a Soviet-style fur cap with earflaps, and he’s even brushing his freaking teeth! To up the irony ante for album 2 (“On My Way”), Kweller had to actually be more subtle: He appears standing in the mountains, and he’s wearing cowboy boots and a sweater vest. Oh yeah, and he’s standing next to three wolves! (Or dogs that look like wolves…I’m not a freaking veterinarian). For the album “Ben Kweller,” his irony was already so thoroughly established that he just has a very simple torso-and-head shot. The only overtly ironic element is the red bandana around his neck, with the calculated effect being that it would be so lame that it would be cool again.
Wow, wasn’t I talking about music a minute ago?
OK, musically-speaking, this album is good. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s quite as good as his first two albums. Of course, his style and playing has surely matured a bit, and maybe the lyrics on this one are as sophisticated as the ones on the others, if not more. But there are still a few songs that happily putter along without really shining, and there are also a few issues with his choice of lyrics.
The opening song, “Run,” begins with the words, “Over hills / over dales / I’ll run / to you.” This isn’t terribly enlightening to begin with, but in the song it actually sounds like he’s saying “Over here / over dere…” That may be a calculated cuteness, but it’s kinda stupid in the end. Also, the third song, “Sundress,” is just a downer to me for some reason. I know it picks up the tempo mid-song, but by then it’s too late. Sometimes, however, the goofy lyrics can work in Kweller’s—and the listener’s—favor, as in the song “Penny On The Train Track,” which opens with a bouncy, piano-infused beat and the line: “I’m-a just a penny on the train track, waiting for my Judgment Day / C’mon girl let me see those legs, before I get flattened away.”
All these critiques, however, overshadow the end result: this is definitely a good album that I would recommend to my friends. I just bring these points up to help. It’s called “Constructive Criticism.” Look it up.
If you see a Kweller album in the stores, grab it up. Also, I hear word that he’s got a new album called “Switching Horses” coming out, and if you happen upon it in that industrialized and audio-fied nation up north between Mexico and Canada, I’d be happy to hear what you think of it. He’s also great in concert (In the BK concert I went to, he opened with a solo, which was an acoustic guitar version of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” with customized lyrics). And as a final note, many thanks to Bobby Majzler for giving me this album as a Christmas gift!
Well, folks, that’s about it for this edition. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. So in the meantime, listen to some music for me! –Ryan Sitzman