One for Friday: Ben Lee, “How Can That Be?”

When I’d transitioned from the exploratory freedom of college radio to the stifling monotony of commercial radio in the mid-nineteen-nineties, I worked very hard to keep myself reasonably well-versed in music that was distinctly different from the jackhammer awfulness I was charged with lobbing out onto the airwaves. I used every resource at my limited disposal, leaning especially heavy on the monthly magazine that had recently been launched as a companion to CMJ, the trade journal of college radio. I’m fairly certain it was within the pages of one of those issues that I first read about Ben Lee. More importantly, a song off of his solo debut was included on the CD that came packaged with the issue. The description in the magazine’s review made me suspect I’d like Lee’s record. The song proved it.

I had limited funds at the time–and I was working a lot of jobs to accumulate those meager dollars–but I still made sure a decent amount of the budget was set aside for my media entertainment. Without the current web-friendly means to generously sample new material, I’d often go out and buy CDs on the basis of fairly slim evidence. With just the single review and one song I hit the Madison record store that was sure to have it. This method sometimes burned me, but it held up for Grandpaw Would. The songs were comfy and clever, and tapped into a wistful teen angst that I was still young enough to remember. It was a style that would be quickly labeled “indie” now, but then it felt nicely different to me, especially since it contrasted so dramatically with the overproduced grunge that dominated at the time.

The various songs showed up on a lot of mix tapes I made back then, but there’s no doubt in my mind that “How Can That Be?” was the one I deployed most often. I could definitely relate to the lyrics about the inability to figure out the right metaphor.

Ben Lee, “How Can That Be?”

(Disclaimer: It looks to me like Grandpaw Would is out of print and maybe not even available for digital purchase, somewhat surprising since Lee is evidently a significant enough figure to merit one of those swanky Amazon artist pages, complete with an artist logo banner. Given his unlikely prominence, there’s clearly a whole lot of Lee’s music that can be purchased by those inclined to send some fiscal support his way. I’d humbly suggest doing so through your favorite local, independently-owned record store since they surely need support as well. The song is posted here under the belief that it can’t be easily purchased in a way that’s beneficial to the artist. Though no harm is meant, I will gladly remove it if requested to do so by someone with due authority to make such a request.)

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