Ben Folds Five – Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner

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

Ben Folds Five – Whatever And Ever Amen

Whatever And Ever AmenThis was my introduction to Ben Folds Five and reaffirmed my faith that the 90s could actually produce potentially classic pop music. By now, it is best known for the deceptively jaunty ballad “Brick”, a completely atypical Ben Folds Five tune in every sense (the gentle march rhythm, the bowed bass), but there are much better songs here. The album kicks off with the cathartically rip-roaring “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces”, another hysterically funny/angry tune. Also included are “Battle Of Who Could Care Less”, the album’s first single (shunned by many stations due to that pesky F word), which bears more than a passing resemblance to Joe Jackson’s style, the harrowing ballad “Evaporated”, and my personal favorite Ben Rating: 4 out of 4Folds Five tune, the jazzy “Steven’s Last Night In Town”, a song which begs for a video with a goofy Busby Berkley production number. Though some of the language may not be suitable for the faint of heart or the prudish, I highly recommend this album as an example that the 1990s have produced something other than angry folk rock, rap and house music.

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  1. One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces (3:52)
  2. Fair (5:56)
  3. Brick (4:43)
  4. Song For The Dumped (3:40)
  5. Selfless, Cold And Composed (6:10)
  6. Kate (3:14)
  7. Smoke (4:52)
  8. Cigarette (1:38)
  9. Steven’s Last Night In Town (3:28)
  10. The Battle Of Who Could Care Less (3:16)
  11. Missing The War (4:20)
  12. Evaporated (5:41)

Released by: Epic/Sony
Release date: 1997
Total running time: 50:52