Ben Lee
Grandpaw Would
/grand royal; 1994/

On one of my first encounters with SEB WOOd, after one of my terrific sold out acoustic solo shows (Angus played there too), he gave me a cd and told me "here, your stuff reminds me of his stuff a lot." I listened to Ben Lee 's Grandpaw Would and felt shattered. I started smoking crack, threw my Smashing Pumpkins singles collection away, burnt my guitar in the process and lost 15 pounds. All i could think about at the time was "this record ruined my life". And on top of that, he dated Claire Danes (i'm not sure whether they're still together or not), at the top of her Romeo and Juliet fame. What i didn't realize then was that this record really made my life much better, i could do without those 15 pounds, self-indulgent smashing pumpkins b-sides and that shitty, tuneless guitar. And crack is good for you. 

Grandpaw Would is an unbelievable collection of unbelievable pop songs. Lee was 16 or something when he recorded these songs for Grand Royal, and the innocence found in the album, with a grown-up's tongue in its cheek, is disarming. It's never sappy, always smart and funny. The arrangements are simple but effective and in the end, i can't think of a single person i know (apart from those stupid art-punk poseurs) that wouldn't like this record. There's something about it that makes it special. Maybe it's teenage stubborness. Or acne. 

My favourite Ben Lee song ever is "Song 4 You". The chorus goes a bit like "I wrote a soooong for youuuuuhou" and the bridge goes a bit like "bla bla bla bla." It's unstoppable. I spent hours in front of my parents' huge mirror with my air guitar, and, trust me, i rocked. 

My second favourite Ben Lee song ever is "Sprawl" it's short (1:28) but it just sounds great to my ears. "my knees turn to jello/ and my eyes start to rain." It shows Lee (Ben) struggling and going forwards, head on first. But maybe i'm overanalyzing.

My third favourite Ben Lee song ever, ex aequo, are: "My Guitar", because it sounds just like Jonathan Richman (and because Lee sings "My guitar is love/ and my guitar's all i need/ and my guitar's so special/ because it plays songs/ not me/ nooooooot me") and "Bolt" because even though it's one minute and three seconds long, there's a solo in it.    

And the other ones are great too, "Away with the Pixies" is about the Pixies, "I'm with the Star" is about being with a girl that is your star and "Pop Queen" is about being with a girl that is your Pop Queen.  

This is a great record for the late Spring/early Summer days, when there are still people around and the town's not empty yet. This is the best pop record you never heard and you can find it in every used cd shop for a couple of euros or bucks or pounds. ENJOY.

And to conclude, i'd just like to say that this is Ben Lee's first and last good record (so far, but i've stopped hoping for anything good after hearing Breathing Tornadoes). Making your best record when you're 16 kinda sucks, especially if you don't die before you're 17. 

-Barbara H

/apr 1st 2004/