February 19, 2004

Test Spin: The Bens

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It’s all a matter of choosing the right Bens. You go with one Ben and Gigli becomes the most laughable movie of our generation. You put another Ben alongside a kite and we’ve got ourselves some electricity. You combine the three coolest Bens of the musical community and the result is not only a successful tour Down Under but a refreshing and exciting EP that combines their three talents even better than you could have dreamed it would. The highly-anticipated EP by the new supergroup (featuring Ben Kweller, Ben Folds, and Ben Lee) won’t be available to the general public until May 4 for $26.99 on amazon.com, but I write for daze, and, consequently, the world is my oyster.

While it may seem to the ignoramuses at large like a gimmick, these three share much more than just the same name. Kweller, Folds, and Lee are all songwriters in the tradition of Elton John and Todd Rundgren, creating beautifully melodic pieces, not without the occasional highly-produced epic or two. On the Bens’ EP, their talents coalesce to craft four very different songs, leaving their pretensions aside in order to just have a kick-ass time. The EP opens with “Just Pretend”, a CSNY-style folk song with lush harmonies and a simple piano piece bringing out the best in the overall melody. “Xfire” is probably the most exciting song on the EP, showing just what the Bens are capable of when they put their creative, irreverent minds together. An ecstatic new wave party song, it’s like No Doubt’s latest records, except good. On “Stop!”, we find Kweller doing his best Lou Reed impersonation, spitting out his vocals in a non-stop verbal assault behind eccentric arrangements and perfectly executed tempo shifts. It may not be as ground-breaking as inventing electricity, but it’ll do.

Archived article by Jared Wolfe