Album Review

Ben Lee, 'The Rebirth of Venus'

April 27, 2009
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Ben Lee The Rebirth of Venus
New West Records
ESSENTIAL "Bad Poetry"
Ben Lee plays the Paradise on May 18.

The quirky Aussie popster gets in touch with his feminine side on his latest release, a tribute to the woman inside us all, even dudes like Lee. But he never loses touch with his melodic side amid all his XX cheerleading, which is a good thing since he has to navigate lyrics like "our leaders have not committed to a plan of action on renewable energy" on the meta-catchy "I Love a Pop Song." But Lee pulls it off - and has fun with the earnest sermonizing while he's at it. And there's much fun to be found here: on the peppy "Yoko Ono," the let's-flip-gender-identity-roles electro-rocker "Boy With a Barbie," and the swoony, self-deprecating "Bad Poetry." Musically, he skates from sparkling acoustic guitar and piano arrangements to offbeat constructions of fuzzy synths and variety-pack percussion. He overuses the chorus of friends device, but his overarching manifesto, summed up in the first tune, "What's So Bad (About Feeling Good)?," makes it hard to stay annoyed; "No guilt, all pleasure," goes the chorus chant. The original Venus could probably get on board with that idea. (Out tomorrow) SARAH RODMAN