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Ben Lee and Har Mar Superstar, with Maria Taylor

Thursday, April 28, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.

This must be a weird time for Ben Lee. Back in the '90s, as a late teen, he was sort of the poster boy for the sensitive folk revival. His incredibly honest and up-front songs about love and growing up were both clever and naive, somehow free of the embarrassing, diarylike trappings that usually taint such work from similarly aged artists. But what do you do for a follow-up when you've exorcised all your demons in song at such a young age?

Well, judging by his newest release, Asleep Is the New Awake, Ben has embarked on a spiritual quest among the ancient texts of the Far Eastern philosophies. Which could prove fortunate for him. But unfortunately for us, all Lee's seeking has just made the guy, well, weird. We can but hope he's not trying to convert all of us to some of his newfound bliss, that he's just trying to showcase and recontextualize the singer-songwriter talents that made him so damn charming when he was just a kid. We can but hope.

Lee is coming to town with Har Mar Superstar, who defies any real categorization, other than this: It's safe to say that he's terribly ironic. Mixing silly love and positivity lyrics that would make even Michael Jackson do a double take, Har Mar is simply yet another in a long line of artists who are remembered more for their humor value than for their supposed "art." Yes, he has written songs for some famous people, but that doesn't mean he's gonna change your life.

 
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