Okay, so that really means that Lee wrote all of Headache's lyrics and cowrote the music with Mink. Until recently, Mink was k.d. lang's key musical foil, helping craft the albums that aided her crossover to the pop mainstream. Here, he joins the ranks of talent who have taken inexplicable steps down: Robert Duvall, who turned down Godfather III to make Days of Thunder, for instance, or Elton John's writing partner, Bernie Taupin, who hung with the Starship ("We Built This City"). Yet Mink does little to dilute Lee's mania for psychobabble and instrumental tendency to sound like Flea auditioning for Yes.
For his part, Lee's lyrics -- on "Moving to Bohemia" he seems genuinely thrilled to have discovered that "Bohemia," "suburbia" and "utopia" rhyme -- aren't a complete embarrassment. In fact, if the music were less garnished with programming, echo and the occasional string section, you might even notice them. But despite Mink's talent as both melodicist and producer and the solid drumming of former Pearl Jam stick man Matt Cameron, Headache drifts along like a slightly souped-up Alan Parsons Project record.
At the time of recording, it was unclear whether Rush would reform. Drummer Neil Peart had lost his wife to cancer and his daughter to a car accident, and the group's releases had become both less frequent and less likely to sell. (They'd also violated the live album cutoff, having put out at least one too many). Recently, though, there has been word that Rush will ride again. It's probably not because the other two members are worried about Lee's solo career: Headache peaked at No. 57 on the Billboard chart and now dwells below the 200 mark. Nor is it because Headache beats Rush at its own game.
Not that Lee didn't try. For Headache, he keeps the trio format, avoids ballads, maintains a healthy interest in sub-Bowie astral plane fantasies, slaps on a this-must-mean-something cover design and mostly sings in his usual karate-chop-in-the-Adam's-apple yelp. Headache is listenable, probably even pleasant for fans of post-Hold Your Fire Rush. But as "why bother?" solo albums go -- think She's the Boss, Mick Jagger's paper-thin rip-off the Stones' already '80s-addled sound -- Lee's Headache is a slickly pointless antistatement of migraine proportions.