Australia's Ben Lee Come to America

ATN

New York correspondent Seth Mnookin reports: Last week was truly

horrible, for reasons too personal to get into here. Suffice to say that by

Thursday, I was a complete and total wreck, drinking nothing but Pepto Bismol

for days on end and passing my time playing with my screen savers. Then,

Thursday afternoon I interviewed Australia's new indie-teen star Ben Lee, pal

of Thurston Moore and Mike D. And that cheered me up some. Lee is

fifteen years old, regardless of how many cool friends he has and how many

gigs he does on various continents, and I had a fun time talking with someone

who stuck his arms up in his t-shirt so that only his hands were showing. And

I was absolutely thrilled to be interviewing anyone with acne. I like Lee's

music#&173;#&173;the two Noise Addict EPs he's put out with his Australian

school friends, and his full-length solo release­­and was also glad

to be talking to someone whose music was being recognized and who still had an

in-control ego.

"I Wish I Was Him," the Evan Dando tribute, has already been covered by both

Kathleen Hanna and the big blond heartthrob himself, and the

can't-get-them-out-of-your-head melodies of Lee's "Pop Queen" and "How Can

That Be?" have begun to get noticed by national press. (Of course, having

your album out on Mike D.'s label, Grand Royal, doesn't hurt.)

So when I

could relate to Lee as a regular fifteen-year-old who happens to make music

(about the level I operate on), I was happy. But Lee's live set that night,

opening for the Archers of Loaf at Tramp's, made me even happier. Lee, as he

spun his way through four solo acoustic numbers and eight tunes backed by a

band, was magical. His just-changing tenor sent chills up my spine, and the

perfection of Lee's pop sensibility was a true joy to behold. By the time Lee

and his band broke into "Pop Queen" near the end of their set, I was jumping

up and down at the front of the crowd, feeling like a kid at my first

all-ages show. And believe me, that feels a lot better than chugging Pepto

Bismol.