One for Friday: The Bens, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”


It only made sense. A trio of Bens — with the last names of Folds, Kweller, and Lee — emerged on the alternative music scene at about the same time, in the mid-nineteen-nineties. (It’s not quite accurate to term them peers since two of the three were literally kids and the third could accurate reference multiple ex-wives in his lyrics.) Besides a forename, all three songwriters had a propensity for clever, genially comic lyrics. Around ten years later, the music business landscape around them had changed dramatically: album sales started their precipitous plummet, the once hot alternative radio format was relegated to the broadcasting field’s junk drawer, and there was certainly no place for wit where the painfully sincere likes of Radiohead and Coldplay dominated the fraying attention of supposedly discerning critics and fans. Why not band together for one last stand of wry pop-rock.

Dubbed the Bens, the band didn’t last long. Honestly, it’s hard to discern if it was even meant to. There are only so many times a joke can be told, after all. In their limited time, there were a few memorable musical contributions, none more so than a live cover of the finest song from Sinéad O’Connor’s finest album. It’s hardly world-changing stuff, but it manages to capture the drive and churn of the song, somehow approaching it both earnestly and with a dapple of irony. And it shows off the exemplary taste of the men in the band.

I’m not sure I long for a succession of original albums from the Bens. On the other hand, this provides sound evidence that a few nights of them serving as a cover band in just the right bar, with a generous row of taps, would be well worth signing up for.

Listen or download –> The Bens, “The Emporer’s New Clothes”

(Disclaimer: So. I’m not even entirely sure how this digital track came into my possession. As best as I can tell, it was included on a live release that may or may not have even been commercially available. I have a foggy recollection of playing this on air at the Florida college radio station that served as my professional home for several years, so maybe it was a radio-only promo release? Regardless, more than most weeks, it appears to me that sharing this track causes no fiscal harm in that the song in question cannot be purchased from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensate both the proprietor of said shop and the original artist, not to mention the songwriter, who could use a little added support these days. Seriously, go buy one of O’Connor’s first two albums. And any of the early work of the three guys pictures above is equally worth paying for. Really, just go buy an album this weekend. It will make your heart feel better. Despite my conviction that sharing this file in this space at this time is completely fair, I will gladly and promptly remove this song from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

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