Ben Folds - Speed GraphicThe first in a promised trilogy of short EPs of songs-in-progress, Ben Folds’ Speed Graphic sits nicely alongside the equally-cryptically-titled Sunny 16 as a sample of what might be on the way – again, there’s no guarantee that any of these tunes will make it to Folds’ next album.

Speed Graphic kicks off with a jaunty cover of The Cure’s “In Between Days”, a song I never would’ve expected to hear Folds do in a million years. But by the end of the track, he’s made the song his own without sacrificing the frenetic pace of the Cure’s original.

By contrast, “Give Judy My Notice” is one of the better ballads Ben Folds has graced us with in quite a while, though the lyrics take an unusual turn toward the end (and that’s all I’m gonna say). This wouldn’t have been out of place on Rockin’ The Suburbs.

A hoppin’ number that’ll please longtime Folds fans, “Protection” is very much in the “Jackson Cannery” vein. I’m not sure what else to say about this, other than that I experienced a “what the hell?” moment when the song ends on a drum solo. Nothing wrong with that, just that I certainly wasn’t expecting it!

This we follow up with “Dog”, which turns out to be one of my favorite Folds songs in a long time. Maybe it’s my mind subconsciously invoking the comparison based on the subject matter, but I could swear that Folds is trying to summon the spectre of pianist Vince Guaraldi (of Charlie Brown TV special fame). The music hops along in a way that’s just begging for Snoopy to hop right along with it. The lyrics are sung from the dog’s point of view, including trying to figure out why his person is “stuck in a cage with a headrest.” It probably catchier 4 out of 4than I can even explain here. There’s a little surprise at the end too.

Wandering back into ballad territory, “Wandering” has all the hallmarks of a last-song-on-the-album track, with an easygoing melody, a slow but steady pace, and it sidetracks into some nice piano solo work. It’s a nice closer for this five-song set, and promises much for Folds’ next full album.

Order this CD

  1. In Between Days (2:57)
  2. Give Judy My Notice (4:02)
  3. Protection (4:39)
  4. Dog (4:32)
  5. Wandering (5:01)

Released by: Epic
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 21:11