On Wednesday, Australian musician Ben Lee announced that he will release Quarter Century Classix, a collection of cover songs, on November 22 via New West Records. Along with the announcement, Lee released his versions of The Breeders’ “Divine Hammer” and Daniel Johnston’s “Speeding Motorcycle.” The latter is in memoriam of the legendary underground songwriter, who died last week.
A musical memoir of sorts, this record originated in Lee aiming to pay homage to and reinterpret songs that were fundamentally inspirational in his musical origins. Focusing on early ‘90s indie, the record will feature songs by Johnston, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Pavement, The Breeders, Superchunk, Built To Spill, Archers of Loaf, Dinosaur Jr., Guided By Voices, Sebadoh, Smudge and Beat Happening.
In regards to Johnston, Lee said in a press statement, “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.”
Along with Lee, the record also features electronic artist Julianna Barwick, as well as appearances from Mike Watt, William Tyler, Petra Haden, Maria Taylor, Mary Lattimore, Joey Waronker.
Lee got his start in the Australian alt-rock band, Noise Addict, whose first show was supporting Sonic Youth. The band would go on to support Fugazi, Pavement, Sebadoh, and more. Having been in such close proximity to the artists featured on the record gave Lee the ability to create a record that feels less like a “cover album” and more like a musical heritage and reflection of self-discovery.
“Within the course of these 13 songs, I discovered that the entire template for what I would explore musically was laid out at that time in my life. These songs truly touched me in the most profound way,” Lee said.
Check out the tracklist for Quarter Century Classix and listen to Ben Lee’s cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Speeding Motorcycle” below:
Ben Lee Quarter Century Classix Track Listing:
1. Web In Front (By Archers of Loaf)
2. Blueprint (By Fugazi)
3. Divine Hammer (By The Breeders)
4. Car (By Built To Spill)
5. Sugar Kane (By Sonic Youth)
6. Get Me (By Dinosaur Jr.)
7. In The Mouth A Desert (By Pavement)
8. Goldheart Mountain Top Queen Directory (By Guided By Voices)
9. Speeding Motorcycle (By Daniel Johnston)
10. Brand New Love (By Sebadoh)
11. Ingrown (By Smudge)
12. My Noise (By Superchunk)
13. Godsend (By Beat Happening)