Archive for the Ben Folds Category

Friday Top 5: Ben Folds Five

Posted in Ben Folds, Top 5 on October 10, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Ben Folds recently released a new solo album called Way to Normal. I’ve been listening to it a bit here lately, and may have something to say about it later. If nothing else, it’s a lot of fun to listen to, and it drove me to go back and dig out my old Ben Folds Five albums to rediscover this music that I enjoyed so much in the late 1990’s.

Ben Folds Five was a three piece band (They said “Ben Fold Five” just sounded better than “Ben Folds Three”) consisting of pianist/vocalist/songwriter Ben Folds, drummer Darren Jessee, and bass player Robert Sledge. You’ll notice there’s no guitar player. The one thing missing from the band was one of the things that made them unique. Ben’s piano was the lead element in their sound, but it was the sheer fury and abandon with witch each member attacked his instrument that truly set the band apart from other piano pop acts. Ben was known to kick at the keys and pound away at his instrument with his piano bench. Their energetic punk posturing blended with their melodic song stylings to form a brand of music Ben called “punk rock for sissys.”

With that said, I’m not sure what it says about me that I like that music so much… but here are my favorites.

The first two songs come from BFF’s 1995 self-titled debut. This is probably my favorite of the three BFF releases.

Philosophy: I don’t really have a lot to say about this song other than I remember being instantly captivated by the sunny melodies mixed with the crashing bass and drums. Ben steals a bit from “Rhapsody in Blue” at the end of this song. Check out this video for an idea of the energy that the Five brought to the stage.

Uncle Walter: I think everyone has a relative like Uncle Walter. He knows exactly what everyone’s problem is… and what they need to do to fix it. And… Oh the stories he can tell. He’s been everywhere, seen everything, and knows everyone. Of course, all he ever seems to do is sit around the house all day watching television.

Ben Folds Five: Philosophy (Buy Album)
Ben Folds Five: Uncle Walter (Buy Album)

Next are two songs from 1997’s Whatever and Ever Amen. This was the first Ben Folds Five album I ever bought and the first album I had ever purchased without having heard one single song on the disc. I followed a recommendation from MTV’s Matt Pinfield… glad I did.

Song for the Dumped: Imagine you’re dating this girl. You’ve been together for a while, and you think things are going pretty well. You take her out for a nice dinner… for which you pay. After a wonderful evening, you take her home and walk her to the door. You move in for a goodnight kiss… But she breaks up with you instead. Just like that.

Oh yeah… and she still has your favorite black t-shirt that she “borrowed” and has yet to return. You’d probably be a tad upset too.

Selfless, Cold, & Composed: Now imagine you see that same girl a few weeks later. You’re a wreck. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. She broke your heart. But there she is, smiling and laughing with her friends. She doesn’t miss you at all. Ouch!

Ben Folds Five: Song for the Dumped (Buy Album)
Ben Folds Five: Selfless, Cold, & Composed (Buy Album)

1999’s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner was Ben Folds Five’s final album, and a nice way to go out.

Army: This one is a bit of an autobiographical song for Ben. Go to school… drop out… join a band… He did it all. What makes this song one of my favorites is what happens to it when Ben plays it live at one of his solo shows. One man playing a piano can’t possibly reproduce the horn section that plays so prominently on the studio version. Ben’s solution is to conduct the audience to sing the horn part while he conducts the crowd with one hand and plays the keys with the other. I’m including the studio track and a bonus live version.

Ben Folds Five: Army (Buy Album)
Ben Folds Live: Army (Buy Album)