ARTIST: Ben Folds Five
TITLE: Ben Folds Five
YEAR RELEASED: 1995
CHART ACTION: None (I am surprised, but hey, it was on an indie label and all…)
SINGLES: Jackson Cannery, Underground (#37 UK), Where’s Summer B? (#76 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Uncle Walter, Philosophy
LINEUP: Ben Folds, Robert Sledge, Darren Jessee
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: At first glance, a typical melodic indie-rock trio, except using a piano instead of a guitar to go along with drums and a heavy fuzzy bass sound. That combination opens up the possibilities for songwriting and production over a normal trio.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A piano instead of a guitar is an interesting choice for an indie alternative band, but it works. It works especially because of the gifts of Folds, who is a sharp writer of both melody and insightful (and smart-ass) lyrics, and an excellent locked in bassist and drummer. Sledge’s bass is distorted and overdriven, a little like Laura Ballance’s bass from Superchunk. That adds an element that you normally don’t find with a piano driven pop group.
Folds can really play – so much so in fact he gets a little much into show-off mode. He also has a few issues in stretching his storified lyrics a bit too long at times. You can tell, though, that he’s a natural showman and enjoys music.
He wasn’t quite the best at ballads, yet. The best cuts are the ones that tell a story like “Uncle Walter” and “Julianne”, where he can be funny as heck and not get in the way of the music with his sardonic nature.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: A few cuts were co-written by Folds’ ex-wife. She wasn’t his ex when she co-wrote with him, though.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.
GRADE: A-: Solid with some grade A+ cuts sprinkled throughout, especially if you like snarky piano players (and who doesn’t?).