Ben Folds – Way To Normal

September 30, 2008

It occurred to me as I was listening to Nashville based singer/songwriter Ben Fold’s latest album, Way To Normal, that Folds is maybe to piano rock what Frank Zappa was to guitar rock: Both are uniquely gifted musicians, possessed of a sardonic, profane and sometimes goofy sense of humor, but also very serious minded about the music they make. Folds is maybe a bit more of a romantic than Zappa was, as evidenced by truly lovely ballads like “Cologne” and “Kylie From Connecticut,” but I think they set similarly high standards for themselves which they sometimes attain, sometimes do not. On Way To Normal, it can be said that Folds mostly attains whatever standard he set for himself with this album, as most of the music is pitch perfect pop music, inspired and engaging. Even the songs that I thought comprised some of the lesser tracks, like “Dr. Yang” and “Errant Dog,” are still possessed of an exuberance that’s hard to resist while the songs are playing. Despite the presence of the two aforementioned ballads, the 12 tracks included here positively whiz by in a flurry of piano pounding goodness. A definite highlight here is a duet with Regina Spektor called “You Don’t Know Me,” which also happens to be the first single. I’m not sure Folds breaks any new ground with Way To Normal, but with music this finely crafted and this entertaining, it hardly matters. Standout cuts: “Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head),” “You Don’t Know Me,” “Cologne” and “Bitch Went Nuts.”


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