Ben Folds was a nerdy teenager’s best friend and when you’re going through that awkward phase, songs like “Underground” and “The Battle of Who Could Care Less” helped get through those years with at least a little bit of joy. His band, Ben Folds Five, was a fun group who not only put out some solid albums in the late 90’s, but also put on some of the most fun concerts I’ve ever been to.
They broke up as a band but Ben Folds came out strong in his first solo debut, 2001’s “Rockin’ the Suburbs” (“Fear of Pop” I’m not counting!). He proved he really didn’t need Darren or Robert even though they were great complimentary players. He hit a snag with “Songs for Silverman”, however, a somewhat serious and messy record that really never hit a stride the way that “Rockin the Suburbs” did. And while I don’t think he’s ever matched the emotionally charged “The Luckiest”, he didn’t come close to anything half as meaningful as that song on the entire album.
He seems to have returned to form with his newest album that has a lot more fun, “Way to Normal”, and it’s a welcomed one. Some of this album is full of giddy playfulness, and I honestly think that’s when Folds is at his best. He is a goofball. He proves that with songs like “Effington” and “Dr. Yang”, and there aren’t really many songs I didn’t care for (“Bitch Went Nuts” may have been a little over the top). Another highlight that really is the most somber on the record, “Kylie from Connecticut” also shows he can still show that sensitive side and not overdo it like he did on “Songs for Silverman”. So overall, he has captured some of his former glory, and I hope he can still build on that for years to come.
This is an album you can listen to twice in a row and not feel like it’s gotten repetitive. That’s a pretty good achievement, and this album proves Folds has plenty left to say about life and love, and he still has a sense of humor about it.