Review Summary: Despite being not too normal, Ben Folds shows us how to get there and back again.
Where was Ben Folds going to go for his third record…? If you’re thinking maybe something a little
more experimental, then you’d be spot on. What made his two previous records quite successful was not only from the repercussions of Five Folds fans, but also for the fact that piano rock in the early naughties had a place amongst the clash of commercially hungry genres, although it was mainly up to him to come up with the ideas. In addition, Folds isn’t your every day song-writer. He’s complex, and has a fairly interesting life story from which to derive most of his inspirations from, which notably gained much appreciation. These elements tie in with Way to Normal’s
eclectic collection of tracks. In these Folds caresses his talents into corners where they do appear undeniably excited but a little uncomfortable at the same time.
At a first glance it seems that the Way to Normal is a step in the right direction for the man (see “The Frown Song”
). He could’ve held off the throttle and idled within his genre, but chose wisely to turn a few resounding ideas that never got complete expression on Songs for Silverman
into reality. These ideas clock in at around forty minutes, making the album his shortest to date, and interestingly the one that seems to have the least mass. Put it down to the possibility that his musical and lyrical concepts need to sprout much further then what they have here. His experimentations with a few new ideas, such as the noise witnessed in “Free Coffee”
is somewhat cursed by a lack of clear style and purpose. In other tracks, a similar effect occurs, although not as immediately recognised, probably because their goodness is there before everything else has decided to catch up; a commonplace that gets above the upper hand of repeated listens.
Perhaps the most engaging and interesting part of the new journey is the terrain of new age like components. It’s an area that he could have (and hopefully still will) considered exploring further. In a mix of George Winston
’s pianistic wisdom with Billy Joel
’s playful rhythm, Folds expresses two of his most interesting songs to date. If this clean approach on the tracks “Before Cologne/Cologne”
and “Kylie from Connecticut”
(which thankfully concludes the album well) isn’t enough to steer you in the right path then perhaps this album isn’t for you. On the other hand if you want to hear Folds as he always has been then “Effington”
, will surely catch your attention given its joking similarities with a well known Christmas carol. The canned in like sardines duo of “Bitch Went Nuts”
might as well morph to become the same track, and the rest can either be there and not. For die hards, the commonalities seen with this and the previous estate of Rockin’ the Suburbs
will certainly have a price tag worth considering, for others it’ll have a place amongst the lesser releases for the year.