I usually try to give an album at least two uninterrupted listens before passing judgment on it in a review, but in the case of Ben Lee's latest, The Rebirth of Venus, I just don't think I can stomach it.
The album, out tomorrow, is in many respects much like Lee's other efforts. Quirky lyrics, smart melodies, and yeah there’s a hook or two. But oh my god if this album doesn’t annoy the crap out of me.
Things start out okay with the summertime pop-tinged song “What’s So Bad (About Feeling Good),” but dive directly into skip territory with “Surrender,” a song wherein every. single. line. is repeated by a chorus of voices. (He also uses the call and response device on the album’s final track.) I kept waiting for it to stop, thinking, maybe after this chorus it’ll just be Lee, but no, it just keeps going. Just two songs later is “I Love Pop Music,” Lee’s spoken word political activism song. Yes, global warming, food and oil prices and access to clean water are all very important things, but this song just doesn’t work.
The album continues in this manner, one song being tolerable and the next making you want to throw your iPod out the car window. “Yoko Ono” sounds like a song the Barenaked Ladies might have passed on in the 90s. “Families Cheating at Board Games,” while long at 5:42, might be my favorite track on the album, and one of two I made it all the way through on second listen.
While I can appreciate the message Lee was trying to convey with the album, a tribute to femininity, the execution was severely fumbled. Better luck next time; I’ll be waiting around for a rival to Awake Is The New Sleep.