By the time I reached my second college radio station, a splendid subterranean outpost where I served as the advisor, I was luckily primed to accept the songwriting talents of precocious teens named Ben. That preparedness prevented me from being needlessly dismissive of a favorite singer-songwriter with key student staff members. This might seem a small accomplishment — and, truly, it probably was — but, let’s face it, I needed all the cool kid points I could accumulate.
Where I warmed to Australian Ben Lee several years earlier, it was Texan Ben Kweller who had an honored place in the radio rotation in 2002. (Lee and Kweller were separated in age by less than three years, but my perception made Lee into an old hand and Kweller into a precocious upstart.) Kweller had already been around the indie cred block by then, releasing a few albums with the band Radish while he was a teen. Sha Sha was Kweller’s solo debut, originally self-released in 2000, but polished up for the ATO label a couple years later. That’s the version I heard, and it was a song that first appeared there that thoroughly won me over.
“Commerce, TX” was everything I wanted in a radio song: punchy with energy, built around an irresistible hook, and spilling out wry lyrics of slacker discontent (“It’s gonna take a lot of time/ Before I can cross that finish line”). Had this very track arrived when I was twenty and holding down a late night slot at the student-run radio station where I made my undergraduate home, I would have played it until it wore out. Over a decade later, it may have spoken to me more by tapping into retrospective emotions than properly mirroring my active state of mind, but it still spoke to me.
Listen or download –> Ben Kweller, “Commerce, TX”
(Disclaimer: Usually, this is the point where I offer a justification — which can be read as a strained rationalization, I will admit — that the song being shared in unavailable for physical purchase and is therefore fair game for this sort of sharing. I can’t do that today. I believe you can march straight to your favorite local, independently-owned record store and ask the proprietor there to order up a CD copy of Sha Sha for purchase. So let the sharing of this track in this space be incentive to do so. The song is indicative of the rest of the album and really most everything Kweller recorded around that time. I will certainly remove this music file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request. I will make this adjustment gladly and promptly.)