Ben Lee's Something To Remember Me By Is Exactly That

Forget Radish, Ben Lee is the real deal.

The career arc for teen rockers tends to follow one of two paths:

initial acclaim leading to speedy obscurity, or initial disdain leading to

later maturity.

So far, Australian singer Ben Lee is the exception to both

rules.

Having blasted out of the box with an impressive 1994 solo debut,

Grandpaw Would, that painted the Noise Addict (his now defunct teen punk

band) leader as a sensitive voice of reason beyond his years, Lee set himself

up for a mighty fall by perhaps giving up too much from the onset.

All of

which makes Lee's second solo effort, the 16-track Something to Remember Me

By (out today) all the more impressive.

Gone on the recording is the

aw-shucks factor of a barely-old-enough-to-drive-kid singing about his love for

the Pixies and supermodels. Swept in is a more worldly high school grad mature

enough--with the help of veteran producer Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Veruca Salt,

That Dog) to ease the rough spots once again--to dabble in train track meter

country ("New Song"), a strong stab at a cappella ("A Month Today") and even an

organ-driven tune with looped beats about his childhood ("Career Choice").

Lee has a gang of help along the way, including Grand Royal label boss

Mike D...



Lee has a gang of help along the way, including Grand

Royal label boss Mike D on drums on the why-can't-we-all-just-get-along sibling

rivalry song "2 Sisters," Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur singing angelic

backing vocals on the painful "Grammercy Park Hotel," and Keyboard Money Mark

lending a subtle piano assist on the fast-love confusion confessional "Daisy,"

about a love he's known for an hour who takes him to "a darker holy

place."

Lee hasn't just grown up, he's grown in. Into his deeper voice and

into his own as a crafty heart-on-sleeve songwriter well wiser than his years.

"In the Desert" is a devastatingly sweet and pure acoustic ballad that

finds Lee contemplating his own long-away death, musing on the naturalistic

differences between expiring in the arid desert at age 94 ("And there'll be no

water/ No rain, no hell, no tears/ Cuz it never rains in the desert/ Like it

has where I live here"), or the congested city at 98 ("There'll be no silence/

To make me stop and fear/ Cuz it's never quiet in the city/ Like it is where I

live here").

Lee, who finds a way to write a convincingly touching ode to

first love at age 8 ("Eight Years Old"), and again at 17, could teach some

of his older peers (listen up Sting, Gavin) a thing or two about successfully

weaving literary metaphors into song on the swelling sad sack ode to the

original Big Poppa, Ernest Hemingway, on "Ketchum," which features

appropriately weepy cello work from That Dog's Petra Hayden.

Lee's also

clever enough to deal with the teen star issue without sounding self-conscious

and awkward by owning up to using every ounce of his life for material so far

("A Month Today"), and equating himself with faded child stars from the cast of

such '80s TV staples as "Family Ties," "Growing Pains," "Diff'rent Strokes" and

"Punky Brewster." "You're never quite so cute/ And I should know/ Once puberty

takes its toll," spits Lee, who wonders "where do they go when they die?" Teen

stardom, sings Lee, is "The toughest game and the hardest time/ It's the

longest walk on the thinnest line/ It's sad and true that they love then

kill."

With this excellent and mature second effort, Lee has deftly

side-stepped the too-cute Hanson Trap and leapt across the pin-up teen David

Cassidy/Andy Gibb chasm, offering up more proof of his well-earned status as a

songwriter to watch.