Ben Folds Five
is an excellent debut album that would launch the careers of this excellent band. Though weaker and less refined than their more popularWhatever and Ever, Amen
album, this still remains a very strong album today.This album isn't quite at the enotional level or musical quality of WEaEA
, but there are still areas where the instrumentation and lyrics fit together perfectly.
-- Ben immediately shows his heavy piano style with his hammering, driving intro. Then, as everyone else joins in, the song takes the familiar path of songs by the Five - heavy enough to forget the fact they have no guitarist, yet still having that jazzy pop feel to it. The harmonies on this track are good, though not as refined as others (i.e. "Fair" from Whatever
). Great opening, though.
-- This starts with a delicate piano riff that is probably my favorite Ben Folds line. Once again, Robert Sledge's fuzzy bass is juxtaposed right next to this delicate piano line, then Darren Jesse keeps it all together with his drums. The verses slow down a bit, then the chorus leads to a nice, meandering piano bit. Everything builds to an explosive jam at the end of the song, then a count into...
-- I feel this is the weak point of the album, if there is one. The piano, however, is once again amazing. It's a very amusing song, but I think the Five gets a bit carried away with the stuff breaking in the background and the drawn out "Annnnnnnneeeeeeeeeeee." at the end.
Where's Summer B"
-- Now we get into another more laid-back song here. This is arguably lyrically one of my favorite Five songs ever. The backing harmonies are top-notch, and the piano perfectly fits in with the rest of the song.
-- Quite a morose song, especially for this album. It has a very lazy piano intro and great chorus harmonies in addition to lighter backing instrumentation as well. I've heard it described as a low point, but I would have to disagree there. Pretty good overall.
-- Hand me my nosering! Obviously about the alternative music song, this takes a while to take off before it turns into a really good song. Once it really gets started (about 35 sec. into it), you again hear amazing harmonies and a nice, driving piano line. Not to mention this is a very entertaining song to boot.
Sports & Wine
-- A nice, happy, upbeat song is always good in my book. This is no exception. It's very simple, but gets the job done. The post-chorus riff is one of the coolest on the album, and there's also a really cool breakdown towards the end of the song. It's a short song, but worth the listen.
-- One of the best on the album. It starts with a driving fuzz bass line, and paints an entertaining picture of the know-it-all relative (Or maybe Walter Cronkite") that everyone knows about. Again, the Five show their genius with their ability to write good, amusing pop pieces.
Best Imitation of Myself
-- This one took me a while to like, but I now see it as one of the most emotional pieces of music on the album. It starts with Ben alone with his piano, then builds gradually as the others join him. Again, the backing vocals here are very impressive, if not perfect. By the end, you almost feel as if something has to break apart from the strain evident in Ben's voice on the last chorus. And I mean that in a good way. This is one of the must-listens on here.
-- This reminds me of "Selfless, Cold, and Composed" in a way. It immediatly starts with the piano. This is probably one of the weaker points on the album, but it's still a good, straightforward piano pop song.
The Last Polka
-- Don't let the title scare you, this isn't a Frankie Yankovic piece. This has another very addicting, crashing chorus, with the hypnotizing piano riff in the post chorus riffs. Ben's vocal work is also impressive, laying the foundation for one of my favorite songs of all time.
-- This is different from most of the album. An almost lazy, this is a very nicely done vignette about a boxing fight. Almost a solo piece until the end, this shows off Ben's skill as an artist.
Though less refined, this album still has some great moments. In fact, some come from these imperfections that make the album what it is. If you are a fan of piano rock, I suggest you pick up this underrated gem if you can find it...
Next, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner