Noise Addicts' Ben Lee Deals With Stardom

Obsessed with stars.

ATN's Philadelphia correspondent Chris Nelson reports: If

you're planning on catching Noise Addict's current tour and you've only heard

their debut e.p., Young and Jaded, or singer Ben Lee's solo outing,

Grandpaw Would, you may be in for a surprise. In the past year, this

four-piece band of Australian teenagers has gotten much tighter, more

distorted, and a lot louder. Gone are the comparisons to Jonathan Richman.

These kids know how to make noise. More importantly, Noise Addict's 13-song,

45-minute set at Philadelphia's Khyber Pass on Sunday (Jan. 14) displayed more

self-assurance than the band has ever revealed on record.

Even with the

newly discovered confidence, however, Noise Addict continues to operate within

the bounds of humility. For instance, the feedback fest that defined "Exorcism

Babe" was not self-indulgent, but rather purposeful and controlled. Moreover,

before the band played "16," a girl in the audience asked to sing it with them

onstage. They happily obliged her, and even brought her back, along with a

friend, for the final song of the evening. These weren't grand, pretentious,

rock star gestures. To the contrary, in the intimate setting (the Khyber holds

about 150 people), they were sincere and humble acts, genuine offers to share

the attention.

Sunday's set drew largely from Noise Addict's newest Grand

Royal release, Meet the Real You. On this album, singer, guitarist, and

songwriter Lee continues to explore his seemingly endless fascination with all

things star-related. Prior recordings have included songs about actual stars

("I Wish I Was Him," about Evan Dando); ruminations on the ideal indie girl

("Pop Queen"); pledges to be star-struck ("I'll be your groupie, super model,

hanger-on-er" from "I'm with the Star"); rock star name drops (Pavement, the

Pixies, the Beastie Boys); and actual guest appearances (Liz Phair on "Away

with the Pixies").

With "The Frail Girl" from Meet the Real You, the

star list expands to include Lee himself. Far from being a rock god's groupie

celebration however, this song explores the confusing, gray areas of

popularity. While the singer accuses an admirer of only liking him because he's

in a band, he's forced to add sheepishly, "But at least you like me." He

plainly acknowledges that the admirer is going to use him, but allows the abuse

because "at least I'm not lonely." Despite having assumed the role of (semi-)

star, the singer is himself still the wide-eyed, unconfident groupie, albeit

begrudgingly, from "I Wish I Was Him." "The Frail Girl" is one of Noise

Addict's best songs to date, and shows that the band deserves on lyrical and

musical grounds the attention they often receive simply for their young

ages.