Rhythm & Views

Ben Lee

Aussie Ben Lee has abandoned his trademark catchy guitar-pop songs to make an odd, quasi-concept album that irks more than it inspires.

The Rebirth of Venus intends to be a celebration of traditionally feminine qualities. I imagine that Lee considers Venus to be a thoughtful yet exuberant rallying call for the death of irony and cynicism, a sort of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" for 2009, but it's so clumsily handled that the reverse occurs: Out-of-date stereotypes and simpleminded political musings are exalted.

I could feel my usually generous heart wither when listening to the highly distasteful "I'm a Woman Too": "I move with the flow of the seasons / I don't make sense but I have my reasons / so hear me roar / when I'm ignored." Do the bookstores in Australia only stock second-wave feminists' texts?

"Boy With a Barbie" is chock-full of more cringe-inducing lyrics ("boys with their Barbies / and girls with toy armies / we don't have to play by their rules / boys being prudes / while the girls make their moves / we don't have to play by their rules!"), but at least it's a decent dance song if you tune out the insipid lyrics.

Can we please call a moratorium on life-affirming little-kid choral interludes? Lee drags out the moppets on no fewer than six irritating tracks.

On "Bad Poetry," he sings: "I love you so much / please don't show anyone this stuff / it's between you and me / this bad poetry." If only ...