Alright; it's been a very long time since I've done one of these, but here goes...
Ben Folds has repeatedly been compared to such greats in the piano world as Elton John and Billy Joel. This album is a prime example of why. Folds is an excellent piano player, and he has great ability in writing a wide variety of songs. He can be very funny, sad, and angry as Hell. The band has about the heaviest songs in pop music, and they don't even have a guitar player. If you are interested in the style of Billy Joel or Elton John, this is a must have album. Time for my old style of reviewing each individual song:
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
-- This is a great starter to any album. It's an amusing piece with heavy drums, piano, and very fuzzy bass. It's amazing to hear this song and realize that it is not driven by guitar. As Ben tells us all how high school was for him, we can't help but chuckle. Then, Ben amazes all with his piano solo towards the end.
-- As soon as the last song is over, we get a hint of the Five's serious side. The song is pretty straightforward, and the bridge section features some amazing vocal harmonies. As the song drifts off, it ends with some piano improv and a nice bass line.
-- If you listened to pop radio anytime around when this album came out, you've heard this ubiquitous song. It starts with a lonely piano arpeggio that makes you feel like you're riding to the clinic along with Ben. The song slowly builds throughout into an emotional bridge, then fades off into the ending.
Song For the Dumped
-- This is perhaps the angriest song ever written. Ben mad. Ben smash. Ben kicks some serious butt on the piano. The sheer volume of the piano in this song is incredible. There is also an interesting piano break towards the end. Let's say that if I were the girl who dumped him, I'd be giving him his black T-Shirt ASAP.
Selfless, Cold, and Composed
-- Probably my fovorite song on here. This piece sounds almost like a straight jazz piece, and it shows that BFF does have a soft side. The melody of the piano and the light drums in the background are amazing. Throw in Ben's incredible lyrics and the amazing string section, and you have a classic song right here.
-- Another more amusing song, this always can make you chuckle when you hear it. However, Ben still maintains amazing piano work and vocal harmonies. A pretty straightforward song, but good nonetheless.
-- Another serious song, on this Ben plays a different instrument (Bandoneon, maybe). I'll admit it's not one of my favorite songs on the album, but it still has a good emotional and musical impact.
-- A very short song, this is just Ben and a piano. Very emotional and slow, it captures the anguish of Fred Jones (only to be released from his job during "Fred Jones, Part 2" on Rockin' the Suburbs
) as he deals with issues at home.
Steven's Last Night in Town
-- The silly songs are back. This time, it's augmented with a strong horn section and clarinet. In fact, the song has a strong New Orleans swing feel to it. Very good.
Battle of Who Could Care Less
-- A nice upbeat song; this one is pretty simple and straightforward. Again, the band exhibits great musicianship and vocal harmonies (Unearned unhaaaappyness). One of my other favorites on the album.
Missing the War
-- This song could challenge Selfless for most emotional song on the album. It starts out at a whisper with a lonely piano bit. By the end, it has exploded into a fury with drums and bass. Ben's lonely vocals make you feel as if you've missed the war right along with him, too. Darren's drum fills are some of the best I've ever heard, and Robert's bass is as soli as ever. Great song.
-- A fitting end to a great album. After the crescendo in the previous song, this one, again, starts at a relative whisper. Robert's bowed bass adds a lot of emotional depth to this song, as well. Then, as quietly as it started, it fades away into one lonely hit on Darren's ride cymbal.
If you in any way like the piano rock, you need to pick this album up. If you are the kind of person turned off by "Brick" after hearing it so much, you should still check out this album, as there are other, much stronger songs on the album. Hope you enjoy it.
Addendum: As for why I gave this five stars, this is my reasoning -- I feel this is a classic, though underrated album of the 1990's and for piano rock in general. Folds is the Elton John of this generation, and this is the classic Folds album. I know a lot of people think 5's are handed out too easily, but I feel WAEA deserves a 5 because of this.