Daniel Lee’s second solo album as Lee Paradise is a finely crafted work of speculative fiction that’s focused on being funky rather than fearful.
It’s funny, in a snickering wink-of-the-eye way, that an album’s worth of dystopian, end-of-humanity dance tunes is credited to a project with the word “paradise” in its name. And yet, The Fink, Daniel Lee’s (Hooded Fang, Phedre) second solo album as Lee Paradise, is no laughing matter. Like a fully committed method actor, Lee sticks to his script, setting these dozen songs in a place and time “where the sun doesn’t shine and humans have long ceased to be relevant,” crafting a kind of funky hybrid dance/punk/hip-hop/pop soundtrack designed for dancing-like-no-one’s-watching-because-no-one-is-left-alive abandon.
Groove is at the heart of “Message to the Past”, an early single and The Fink’s opening salvo. Built around programmed drums and a bitching bass line, “Message to the Past” is all future-forward — how a twenty-eighth-century musicologist may imagine present-day popular music to have sounded. Dark and brooding, the song really feels as if there’s a hidden communiqué in its nearly indecipherable lyrics. Later on, Lee counters with “A Present to Ponder”, suggesting the future isn’t looking any brighter: “Moments passed and all that was left / Was a present bleak and dim / Monsters scurried in far off buildings / The night covered up their sins.” Repeatedly singing “You don’t know what you want / You can’t tell what you need,” suggests that the future of humanity is nothing if not predictable, failing to take heed of lessons from the past while a siren-like synth wails throughout.
“Maintaining Platitudes” does little to convince the denizens of the twenty-first century that there are greener pastures just over the horizon. Still, Lee Paradise manages to make lyrics like “The word is a living tomb” palatable thanks in no small measure to his musical accompaniment. As he says, “The only way to live is to know that it doesn’t last,” and Lee Paradise takes that maxim to heart; The Fink is a finely crafted work of speculative fiction that’s focused on being funky rather than fearful.