Dusting Off... Ben Folds Five's Ben Folds Five
What is it?
Released In 1995, Ben Folds Five is the debut LP from the brilliant but confusingly named three-piece, Ben Folds Five. Hailing from the city of Chapel Hill in North Carolina and led by frontman and pianist Ben Folds, who once famously described the group's music as “punk rock for sissies”, the band was formed early in 1993, releasing their self-titled debut two years later.
Although the album never reached the Top 40 either in the UK or on their home soil of America, the album performed better in Japan and also in Australia, where both of their subsequent LPs gained Top 10 positions. Ben Folds Five's music is characterised chiefly by the humour often injected into their songs' lyrics, but also by the machine-gun rapidity of Folds' piano playing style.
From start to finish, Ben Folds Five is packed with instantly hummable melodies and smart, witty lyrics, such as on the tracks 'Uncle Walter' (written about an elderly relative prone to wild exaggeration) and 'Julianne', where Folds recounts a tale about a date with “girl who looks like Axl Rose”. The real standout here though is 'Underground', a lament on the too-cool-to-dance mentality of the underground music scene.
Why should I revisit?
Ben Folds Five's songwriting really does deserve a far wider audience than it's received over the years, and while they've scored the odd hit such as 'Brick', taken from the bands sophomore album Whatever and Ever, Amen, much of their music has remained outside of the mainstream.
This isn't inaccessible music though, and as well as some solo albums from Ben Folds himself the band did reunite for a fourth LP, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, in 2012, so there's plenty of back catalogue to delve into.
Who will enjoy it?
If you enjoy the slightly nerdy indie rock of Weezer and Barenaked Ladies, you'll probably find plenty of common ground with this superb debut album.