The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold MessnerThe fourth album from Folds, Sledge and Jessee – actually, technically only their third album since Naked Baby Photos was more of a B-side/outtake compilation slapped together by the band’s first label to capitalize on their major-label success – ventures into more adventurous and mature musical territory that one might expect, given the alternative-rock pedigree that put them on the map. Reinhold Messner introduces a more introspective and pensive side to the band, and also explores the musical possibilities of overstepping their well-known piano/fuzz bass/drum combo. Small string and brass ensembles liven up several tracks, notably “Don’t Change Your Plans”, which sounds very much like a good, smooth early 70s Chicago tune in its instrumental break. The voice and the lyrics are still true to Folds’ past work, but aside from the opening track and a couple of amusing upbeat songs halfway through the album, the music is slower and more intricate – even better than, say, “Brick” (which was no slouch). There are also indications – namely the hilarious yet strangely touching track “Your Most Valuable Possession”, which consists of a jazzy musical backing under an actual message left on Folds’ answering machine by his father – that Folds’ Rating: 4 out of 4experimental side project Fear Of Pop was a necessary testing ground for some very interesting possible future directions for Ben Folds Five. I have no reservations about nominating Reinhold Messner and Jason Falkner’s Can You Still Feel? as the best rock/pop albums of the first half of 1999. Highly recommended.

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  1. Narcolepsy (5:24)
  2. Don’t Change Your Plans (5:11)
  3. Mess (4:03)
  4. Magic (4:02)
  5. Hospital Song (2:05)
  6. Army (3:25)
  7. Your Redneck Past (3:43)
  8. Your Most Valuable Possession (1:55)
  9. Regrets (4:07)
  10. Jane (2:42)
  11. Lullabye (3:53)

Released by: Sony 550
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 40:37