Ben Folds – [Album]

Sunday, 06 November 2011

I’m pretty sure that the whole “Piano Man” scene sort of hit its peak in the late Seventies and early Eighties (see Elton John, Billy Joel et al) and went to ground hard after punk broke and got pounded even deeper when alternative reared its head but, then, Ben Folds came along out of nowhere and pumped out a lot of catchy songs for a guy who doesn’t have the most rabid of fan bases. I’ve never heard anyone attack or adamantly defend Ben Folds, or the Five, so I think its safe to say that he’s not very offensive. I guess that’ll happen to you when your biggest track is an ode to abortion ― I’m not sure either side of the fence is going to use that as any kind of anthem. It’s just too sad.

However, I do have a little beef with the geek rock anthem that is “Rockin’ the Suburbs.” I mean, I get it. Dude is white and he’s making fun of how struggle-free the average white suburban dude’s life is. Being of that ilk, I guess I should identify – but, I don’t. It’s stupid to joke about the struggles of the struggle free. And, I’m pretty sure that if written out in prose, it would result in a very poorly told stand-up joke.

I do like Folds’ serious takes on real life struggles in songs like “Annie Waits” and “Brick,” the latter of which has become a great song to listen to for 'tweens going through any kind of struggle (yes, even abortions), and there is a perfect unspoken empathy in Folds' careful delivery of the lyrics; it's perfectly cathartic. The Best Imitation Of Myself: A Retrospective also contains a nice duet with Regina Spektor called, “You Don’t Know Me.” It’s got Folds’ catchy flair mixed with a tasty spice of that revenge feeling. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but that’s what I got out of it.

When all is said and done, I’m probably not going to think too much further about Ben Folds or his Five. It is what it is to me…non-offensive, somewhat pleasant music. Maybe that’s terrible of me to say, but Ben Folds just never did anything which made me want to run out and see him play a show. Good for him though, because he’s still playing music and filling up venues. I've got no beef with that. 



The Best Imitation Of Myself: A Retrospective
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .


Ben Folds – [Album]

Monday, 29 September 2008

After eight years without a numeral appended to his name and a couple of albums that, while very good, found the defender of the dumped evacuating his seat at the eighty-eight keys (Rockin’ The Suburbs) and then sitting back down to ease out some bittersweet and sentimental regrets that even won some adult contemporary radio air time (“Landed” from Songs For Silverman), fans might’ve started to get worried that Ben Folds had forgotten his sense of humor as well as his raucous, hellacious piano licks at the rehearsal space when he walked out on the Five in 2000. However, those fans will cry tears of joy when they find out that Way To Normal is as much a statement of intent as it is the title of Folds’ new album.

The opening wallop of the ominously entitled “Hiroshima” does more than just hint that something is in the air as the oh-oh-ohs begin to build up steam and excitement behind the song. That little glimmer is there and listeners find themselves holding their breath while perched on the edge of their seats because it certainly sounds like Folds feels he’s like got something to prove.

Any doubt at that fact evaporates as “Hiroshima” collapses into “Dr. Yang” and the singer’s equilibrium is finally restored. Once again, Folds plays his piano like a full-contact sport and pushes his rhythm section to the point of reckless ecstasy. At that point, it doesn’t matter what the singer is saying (good thing too because lines like “When my bank card clears, tell me things I want to hear” are pretty fluffy and disposable), he’s rediscovered his point of greatest impact; with busy piano lines and hooks as timeless as Cliff Friend, Folds remembers that he’s the only player in pop that can make people pogo to a piano. As he rattles through the incendiary, wounded-but-wisecracking and heart-on-its-sleeve pop of songs including “Errant Dog,” “Free Coffee” and “Bitch Went Nuts,” you can almost hear the singer grinning from ear to ear as he cuts loose and that vibe is incredibly infectious; in these dozen tracks, Ben Folds hooks listeners early and drags them directly into his mindset and gets them to laugh, cry and flip the bird right along with him.

It isn’t as though he’s turned away from the sounds he has developed since going solo though. “You Don’t Know Me” and “The Frown Song” recall the plastic-coated, vacuum-sealed pop rock of Rockin’ The Suburbs while introspection rules the day in “Cologne” and plays like the forgotten song from Silverman (it’s even possessed of a separate pre-amble to compliment the epic balladry of the composition) and the approach to those songs illustrates Folds has figured out how to present all of the sides of his musical persona without sounding fractured, inspirationally desperate or just plain meandering. Instead, for the first time it sounds like Ben Folds has finally managed to reconcile all of the sounds in him aching to get out and combined them into one consistent sound. Way To Normal is, as the name suggests, not the stylistic endgame for the singer – he hasn’t yet arrived at where he wants to be – but he’s most definitely on the way and he’s doing it with a sound that has unified all of the different motivations that drive him.


Ben Folds' official homepage

Ben Folds on Myspace


154 different tracks by Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of