For over two decades Australia has watched Ben Lee grow from a disheveled teenager, indulging in the angst of adolescence and alternative rock, into a prolific singer-songwriter with countless indie-pop anthems to his name. In a musical journey that has followed more twists and turns that Madonna has had reinventions, Lee’s 10th studio album Love Is The Great Rebellion sees a return to the buoyant pop-rock that the artist is arguably most well known for.
The tropical lilt of Giving Up On Miracles opens the sunny album, delivering joyful guitar and subdued merriment characteristic of many of Lee’s mid-2000s efforts. Goodbye To Yesterday begins with the gentle ebb and flow of piano and guitar before the duet is unexpectedly joined by a bouncing bass that seems out of place. Lee more successfully explores this electro-acoustic trend in lead single Big Love. Appropriately dubbed his “ukulele techno song” by Lee himself, Big Love is a pulsing, shimmering ode that feels closer to the infectious pop anthems of an earlier era.
Love Is The Great Rebellion also reveals Lee as the moralizing family man, offering an abundance of musical nursery rhymes. In Forgiveness Lee imparts the message: “It’s all about forgiveness / It doesn’t matter who’s right anymore”, while delicate track Happiness urges listeners to wholly embrace the state of mind with simple, pretty harmonies. Family members also feature throughout with Lee’s father-in-law, 60s folk icon Donovan, providing vocals on Happiness, while wife, actress Ione Skye, and daughter Goldie lend their voices to the stomping I’m Changing My Mind. Elsewhere, Lee navigates a heftier subject. Everybody Dies sees the artist reflecting on the death of his own father as he explores the inevitability of life and death with optimism and realism.
While tender lullabies (Everything Is OK), and poppy battle cries awash with bagpipes (Don’t Let The Fire Die) also deliver some truly lovely messages Love Is The Great Rebellion but almost unmemorable. It’s an affable, but oftentimes corny, LP whose earnest, familial messages read more like lectures from your parents that won’t be appreciated for at least another five years.