1995 – Fellaheen
Folk/ Pop/ Alternative/ Low-fi
This little EP from Australian acoustic pop-rocker Ben Lee is an amazingly cute collection of catchy tunes and low-fi nonsense. Consisting of a few tracks off Lee’s debut album Grandpaw Would and a whole load of stuff recorded haphazardly on an old eight-track in his bedroom, this EP really is just wonderfully heart-warming in its simplicity and raw creativity.
I mean, the obvious use of multi-track vocal overdubs and the odd levelling really should be a turnoff in music, but somehow with this release all these imperfections just become deliciously charming. Every missed harmony in Red Slurpee and every missed cue in My Turntable becomes a little smile that works to build up the naively optimistic world of the teenage Ben Lee.
The lyrical matter too is somehow cute in its fixation on teenage problems and childish trivialities. I mean, Shirtless is really nothing more than yet another angst-ridden whinge about pubescent relationship troubles, but Lee’s innocence and good nature manage to make it all believable and lovely in a way that most teenage groups never can.
Perhaps it’s the incredibly low production values and consequent grungy unprofessionalism or the sound, or perhaps it’s Lee’s geeky quirks of metaphor, but for some reason I just can’t help but be drawn to this messy collection of jingles. It’s all just so perfectly crafted to be so accidental, and so accidentally crafted to be perfect. It’s as if near enough were good enough to the young outsider, and a three chord masterpiece about what turntable to buy is about as polished as things needed to get before moving on to a duet with a seven year old about why it’s cool to go to school.
There’s just not a single ounce of pretension or self-pity in it, which, to my mind, makes for a refreshingly light and optimistic view of teenage life. I think that is where the real charm of this EP lies; in its completely open nonchalance. I mean, Lee just doesn’t care if his music paints him as the schoolyard nerd or the rock-star. He doesn’t care if his ill-formed rhymes are scoffed at by the literati elite, or if his jangly major chords are derided by the art crowd for being vapid and shallow. No! He’s content to listen to The Stooges with a happy grin and spend all afternoon strumming out a ditty about the dictionary definition of ‘flexible’.
In short, he’s just content to kick back with a guitar and have some good, old-fashioned, home-grown fun. And, by golly, I am more than happy to pop this record on, ignore its muddy production, and get right on down to having fun too.
And here is the wonderfully cheerful little tune My Turntable.
- Mindfulness – An evening with Ben Lee (kokoonsanctuary.wordpress.com)
- Ben Lee: Catch My Disease Movie Review (shockya.com)