Ben Lee continually finds interesting projects to keep himself busy. Last year that meant cohosting a star-studded panel with Lena Dunham in which the pair psychoanalyzed Oasis’ Liam and Noel Gallagher. Before that, the Australian musician released an album with How I Met Your Mother’s Josh Radnor under the name Radnor & Lee. Before that was a solo effort called Love Is The Great Rebellion, and before that was Mixtape, which was (you guessed it) a mixtape including collaborations with his the Bens bandmate Ben Folds plus Zooey Deschanel, Neil Finn, Azure Ray, and Sean Lennon.
Now, Lee is gearing up to release a covers album titled Quarter Century Classix. The album was produced by Lee and comprises his interpretations of early ‘90s indie rock favorites from artists such as Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Pavement, and Superchunk among others. Today he’s sharing his renditions of “Divine Hammer” by the Breeders and “Speeding Motorcycle” by Daniel Johnston.
The timing of the Johnston cover couldn’t be more bittersweet, as the 58 year-old musician sadly died last week. Here’s what Lee had to say about what the track means to him:
It’s been powerful this past week to see so many people sharing how Daniel’s music touched them so deeply. It’s one of those bittersweet elements when a beloved artist dies — we are given the opportunity to say out loud what we’ve thought privately so many times. It’s strange timing for me personally, as I had recorded my cover of “Speeding Motorcycle” earlier this year, after performing it with Daniel on KCRW and at the LA show that night, which was one of the high points of my musical life. Climbing inside that song was like a celebration of everything that initially moved me about Daniel’s music and rock ‘n’ roll in general: the freedom, the melody, the wit, the artistic rebelliousness. So here it is for you to hear, oddly, a week after Daniel’s death. And I get the chance to say that I believe Daniel Johnston was amongst the greatest songwriters in American history.
Listen to Lee’s covers of “Speeding Motorcycle” and “Divine Hammer” below.
01 “Web In Front” (Archers of Loaf)
02 “Blueprint” (Fugazi)
03 “Divine Hammer” (The Breeders)
04 “Car” (Built To Spill)
05 “Sugar Kane” (Sonic Youth)
06 “Get Me” (Dinosaur Jr.)
07 “In The Mouth A Desert” (Pavement)
08 “Goldheart Mountain Top Queen Directory” (Guided By Voices)
09 “Speeding Motorcycle” (Daniel Johnston)
10 “Brand New Love” (Sebadoh)
11 “Ingrown” (Smudge)
12 “My Noise” (Superchunk)
13 “Godsend” (Beat Happening)
11/22 Los Angeles, CA @ Largo (w/ Jon Brion)
12/01 New York, NY @ City Vineyard
Quarter Century Classix is out on 11/22 via New West Records. Pre-order it here.