Ben Folds Five review by Ben Folds Five

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  • Released: Aug 8, 1995
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.5 (2 votes)
Ben Folds Five: Ben Folds Five

Sound — 10
Ben Folds Five eponymous first studio album showcases the band's diversity and talent and acts as a prelude to the rest of their career. It consist of twelve tracks littered with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, cool-cat jazz piano licks, and an incredibly solid rhythm section. The lack of guitar, as there is no guitar on any of the tracks, is hardly noticeable, being covered by Robert Sledge's heavily distorted bass. Though the style of music varies from song to song (Polka, waltz, punk, jazz, etc.), the top of the line song writing ability of Ben Folds holds the album together, creating a united and solid album. If you can listen to the entire album without finding a single catchy song, then by golly you must be out of your mind.

Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are written by Ben Folds and, occasionally, his counter-part Anna Goodman. They have varying degrees of depth and meaning, though they are far from poetry. Songs such as "Boxing" contain higher meanings than the denotation of the lyrics express, as the song portrays the view point of Mohammad Ali addressing Howard Cosell, lamenting that he is worn out, scared, and his career is over. The lyrics are creative and the melody is catchy, but the lyrics lose their gleam when read by themselves. At other points, his lyrics reach levels of absurdity. I will be honest in saying I have no particular idea what the phrase "big brother's got the keys, and i got jackson cannery" means. However, perhaps his greatest quality, is Ben Folds' ability to mock everyone and everything, even the Indie scene from which the band originates with the incredibly catchy "Underground". I feel the need to speak for a moment on the actual talent of Ben Folds singing. I, for one, think it is a bit silly how today we do not want to admit that bands we enjoy have any short comings. So, in order to fight against this, I will say that Ben Folds is not a great singer. He just isn't. He isn't tone deaf, but his voice sounds strained and pushed at points, and can be heard cracking at others. That being said, the fact that he continues to write melodies with a larger range than he possesses and sings them is commendable, and his intonations are, at the very least, tolerable, and at other times lovable.

Overall Impression — 10
Overall, if you take yourself and your music very seriously, perhaps this isn't the album for you. As I said, the lyrics aren't poetry, his singing isn't phenomenal, and you will undoubtedly find yourself mocked at some point. However, if you can appreciate the songwriting abilities, the underlying meaning of some songs, or just the quirky absurd humor of others, I would pick this album up. Of course, there is also the piano abilities of Ben Folds, which is unmatched in pop music today. The breaks at the end of "Philosophy" and "Uncle Walter" are simply perfect, and make you wish you had taken up piano as a child. If you're a fan of any of Ben Folds other works, this album is great to have. If you aren't, this album is still a pretty good piece for your collection.

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