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Arts & Living
Ben Lee shares "divine secrets of the universe" on new album
By Chris Hislop
Friday, February 18, 2005
"Awake is the New Sleep." This, the title of Ben Lee's latest album speaks volumes that cannot be exhausted into one, simple album review. Shortly after wrapping up his stint with "The Bens;" (a collaboration that included Ben Folds, and Ben Kweller) which yielded a 4 song e.p. and short tour; Lee took some time to explore the world and find himself amidst all the chaos. He claims that with some help he found "The Divine Secrets of the Universe." These seem like bold words coming from the 26 year old Aussie's mouth; however they seem to have some merit. "Awake is the New Sleep" is an album dedicated to the waking of the worlds inhabitants. Wake up and observe what's going on around you before all is said and done. This idea seems more refreshing than sleep itself. Lee seems to be claiming that people sleep their way through life and miss all the sophisticated subtle attractions that the world has to offer.
The quiet, slow strummed opener "Whatever It Is" is an appropriate beginning to this album of depth, hope, and above all, curiosity. Lyrics boasting: "Just do it, whatever it is, whatever it is, go do it..." is Lee's hope that he can push you out the door and begin your journey. He's not telling you where you're going or what you'll find, and he offers no apologies for this, he just simply wants you to begin. I asked myself if that meant turning off this record and discarding it in order to begin my journey, but I figured "Whatever It Is" could wait. I wanted to hear more.
Skipping ahead a little... the eight cut on the album "No Right Angles" hears Lee singing about the perils of getting caught up in routine. "I've been thinking about the straight and narrow/ Slip, slide round the back of my hand/ Keep turning and it's almost tomorrow/ I'll find a way to make you understand/ There are no right angles in my life, there are no right angles in my life..." Lee speaks of having a curious mind, and seeking out what lies around that corner. There may be violence, there may be something inspiring, and there may be nothing at all. However, you'll never know anything unless you take a peek around the corner.
Many of the songs on "Awake..." are love songs. Love between the opposite sex, and of the world around. The second take on the album entitled: "Gamble Everything for Love" is the first single off the record with lyrics that sing: "Gamble everything for love, gamble everything/ Put it in a place where you keep what you need...You can gamble everything for love, if you want it/ Gamble everything for love, and it'll be alright." The song seems to aide in Lee's belief that life shouldn't be lived in a straightforward fashion. Put it all on the blocks and see what comes about.
The songs on this record seem to be speaking amongst themselves which is cool to pick apart. You have to listen to it a few times though because they are in a random order. Production wise I may have picked a different order for the tracks to appear in, but that's just me. I feel like the album would flow much better if the thoughts presented on the album ran into each other. However, on a deeper level, this may be a tactic of Lee as well to get you to explore something that seems a little rocky upon first interaction. "This is an album about waking up! Wake up!" Lee said in a recent press release.
"Awake is the New Sleep" will be released on February 22nd in the U.S. I'd recommend checking it out solely due to the excitement and enthusiasm that Lee has channeled into this effort. The record is a surefire shameless sing-along that opens up your mind, and your heart. Check out www.ben-lee.com for more information.
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