Remember 1997? I sure do. That was the year of my musical discoveries of Ben Lee and Radish. These two helped to shape my junior and high school years. Ben Lee’s monumental Something to Remember Me By was the first album that spoke straight to me. I related to every song on that record. Then there was Radish and it’s former lead singer, Ben Kweller. Ever hear of him? At the time of the release of Restraining Bolt, Kweller was 16. How old was I when it was released? 15. Naturally he started me thinking about a career in rock and roll.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself, why is he talking about two different Ben’s releasing albums in 1997? And what about another important Ben, like Ben Folds? Didn’t he and his ‘5’ release Whatever and Ever Amen in 1997? Well, yes Whatever did come out in 1997, but it went unnoticed by me until 1998 when I finally bought the album. But I did not fall in love with BF5 until The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.
So needless to say (after I just gave you a detailed history of my relationship with Lee, Kweller, and Folds), I was really excited to hear that the three Bens were recording together. Well, I have their new EP. They are called The Bens, and this is their story:
It starts off with the great folky “Just Pretend,” which makes The Bens sound like a modern day version of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (I am often criticized for my name dropping of obscure bands, if you don’t know who these guys are you are officially out of the musical loop).
Sadly, the next track is a poor showing. “Xfire” (read as ‘cross fire’) is lead by Lee, and can I just say “Shut up, Lee!” You see, Lee has been releasing progressively worse albums. The final nail in the coffin is 2003’s Hey You, Yes You which sounds like phoned in folk covered over with lame electronic beats. Well, needless to say “Xfire” comes of like a bad out take from Hey You and Lee decided to drag Kweller and Folds along for the ride.
Next up is the Kweller-led “Stop!” This track starts off promising with a good simple melody. But, Kweller’s punk background shows up soon in the horrendous bridge at 1:20 with thrashy punk guitars.
Luckily, the oldest member of The Bens saves the record with the closer “Bruised.” This song is one of the best songs that Folds has ever written. It has a great melody and great harmonies between The Bens. This track is what The Bens EP should have been. Next time, Lee and Kweller should just follow Folds’ lead and try not to lead.