Almanac Music: Aussie album review – Ben Lee “Awake is the New Sleep”

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Album: Awake Is The New Sleep

Artist: Ben Lee

Released: 2005

It isn’t every day that a television commercial for superannuation prompts one to revisit an album that has not featured on one’s ipod for some time. As such, my response to the advert was probably not quite what IndustrySuperFunds had in mind when it plumped for Ben Lee’s We’re all in this together as its feel-good soundtrack. But it had stirred within me memories of how much I enjoyed the album Awake is the New Sleep when it was first released.

Prior to the release of the album, I was never much of a Ben Lee fan – in fact, my clearest memory of him was of his performance on The Panel, when he jumped onto the desk and his guitar cord promptly unplugged. He seemed to come across as someone who was too young to be so perpetually earnest. Even whilst dating Claire Danes!

However, upon purchasing this album on a whim, after enjoying the lead single Gamble Everything For Love, I was struck by the sense of outright joyousness and positivity which permeate throughout. I am unsure of Lee’s personal circumstances at the time, but it sure sounds as if he was in a good place. The opening track Whatever it is quietly, but firmly, beckons the listener in: the words “awake is the new sleep, so wake up!” cojole you to be a part of it all. And, of course, the mark of an excellent album is that you do become a part of it.

The afore-mentioned Gamble Everything for Love establishes the theme of optimism: “if you gamble everything for love, you’re gonna be alright”. Even the tracks hinting at relationship doubt, such as Begin, Apple Candy and Ache For You leave you with a sense that brighter days are in store.

And then there is Catch My Disease, the brilliant and witty sing-along, and the stand-out track on the disc. Other highlights include the beautifully tender Into the Dark, No Right Angles and The Debt Collectors. There is an underlying strength within each track on the album. Not to mention some downright catchy tunes (Close I’ve Come and the now-ubiquitous We’re All in This Together). Sleep is a lengthy indulgence, but the album finishes positively – how else? – with I’m Willing, in which Lee sings “if living, is giving, I’m ready, I’m willing”.

Any objective assessment of Ben Lee’s career would overwhelmingly suggest that Awake is the New Sleep is the high point. I have tried to get into subsequent albums such as The Rebirth of Venus and Love is the Great Rebellion, but they just have not had that something special which Awake is the New Sleep possesses. It would also not be a stretch to say that this album – and the individual tracks within it – will continue to be the financial gift which keeps giving for Ben Lee. Particularly if advertising agencies continue to be so generous.

About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. This is an interesting album, Smokie. Listened to it quite a bit when it came out but really have to be in the right mood now not to find it annoyingly twee (but that says more about me than Mr Lee). The fact that many of the songs have been advertising jingles ever since probably doesn’t help. Breathing Tornados gets a more frequent run on the ipod these days – a bloody good album and less mood dependent.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    I find Ben Lee rather annoying, but can’t fault this album. However, his finest work was getting with Claire Danes, even though it didn’t last.

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