Ben Lee – Deeper Into Dream

January 01, 1970

(Dangerbird
Records)

 

www.dangerbirdrecords.com

 

It’s really hard
not to like Ben Lee.  His quirky,
cheerful songs “We’re All In This Together” and “Catch My Disease” from 2005’s Awake Is The New Sleep, garnered tons of
commercial success and ended up being songs that you didn’t particularly mind being stuck in your head. The
Aussie accent, the gentle, baby-faced, blue-eyed gaze … The man appears to be
just as charming as his hit songs. And hello! His long-term relationship with
Claire Danes (aka: Angela Chase, My
So-Called Life
) and subsequent marriage to Ione Skye (aka: Diane Court, Say Anything) basically makes him ‘90s
pop-culture royalty.

 

Which is why
this disappointingly flat 8th studio album from Lee, Deeper Into Dream, is so, well,
disappointing. Albums #6 (Ripe) &
#7 (The Rebirth of Venus) weren’t
particularly successful, but with help from Mandy Moore, Benji Madden and
producer Brad Wood, Lee’s joyful, pop aesthetic remained in tact. When a
musician takes a risk and makes an artistic departure from previous albums,
there’s always some sort of skepticism from long-time fans. Lee told AOL’s
Spinner that Deeper Into Dream is the
“most aggressive and darkest record I’ve made, in a sense.” And it’s true.  However, there isn’t a noticeable “hit” on
the album (which is actually something Lee admitted wasn’t a concern here), and
the intonation in his voice just doesn’t seem to convey the emotions portrayed
in the lyrics.

 

Deeper Into Dream, which was produced by Lee in his Laurel Canyon
home studio, was created among friends who recollected their dreams over the
course of 3 months.  These recollections
are easily the darkest parts of the album, as they are spliced together to
recount some really weird shit (“And then underneath was, um, she had a penis …
But it was so, so vivid, I knew what his lips felt like, I knew what his breath
smelled like … For some reason it’s like, a certain smell of a dead animal, of
a wallaby … And it’s kind of scary …”). Uh, yeah. Scary is right.

 

The rest of the
album mostly sounds like Lee has forcefully suppressed his quirk and is really
reaching for his inner Conor Oberst. Lee’s echoed vocals in “The Church of
Everybody Else” fall short for an apparent ballad, and “Deeper Into Dream”
drags on sleepily as an apparent lullaby. “Lean Into It” manages to tug at your
heartstrings and is actually kind of beautiful, but none of the aforementioned
songs are particularly memorable.

 

Lee says “Music
has always been a tool for working out and exploring myself and exploring the
world … So I just wanted to go deeper with that and I found working with the
dream really powerful for that.” And while the subject of dreams has been a
popular and conceptually imaginative theme for music in 2011 (M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, double-disc
album, Dum Dum Girls’ song “Hold Your Hand” from Only In Dreams, among many others), the songs on Deeper Into Dream don’t manage to
connect with listeners like some of Lee’s previous work.

 

The darkness and
aggression that Lee expounds upon just isn’t dark and aggressive enough to be a
successful departure. It’s as if he knew what he wanted to get at, but not
quite how to get there. Which is typically part of the creative process, yet not something people want to
patiently watch materialize.  But when
you think about it, “we are changing, and we’re all in this together” – so
perhaps we can take comfort in remembering that until Lee finds his way and
gets stuck in our heads all over again.

 

DOWNLOAD: 
“Pointless Beauty”, “Indian Myna” PARRY ERNSBERGER

 

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