Ben Folds Five return after 13 years with new album — The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind
It does seem like rock bands are reuniting left, right and centre. However, although it’s been 13 years since Ben Folds Five released their last album, shortly before disbanding, anybody who kept an eye on their prolific frontman since knows that, for better or for worse, he certainly didn’t disappear. Folds released a string of solo albums, produced albums for others and even appeared as a judge on a TV talent show. It’s safe to assume he probably doesn’t feel his career needs a boost, so the news that Ben Folds Five have reunited and are soon to be releasing a brand new album can hopefully be greeted with minimal cynicism.
The piano-driven alt-rock trio shot to success in the mid-90s with their second album Whatever and Ever Amen, which included several hit singles, most notably Brick. Their brash, witty and self-effacing pop songs swung between noisy and clattering punk rock and tender, introverted ballads. Song for the Dumped (does what it says on the tin) — which is equal parts tongue-in-cheek humour, sarcasm, swearing and chaotic instrument abuse — is a classic example of the former, while Selfless Cold and Composed demonstrates the latter, with it’s poignant lyrics and heart-wrenching strings. The group was an energetic and original voice that stood in harsh contrast against a wave of bands and an industry that seemed intent on reveling in mediocrity.
However, after three albums and relentless touring, the band called it a day. Ben Folds kicked off his solo career with the highly successful Rockin’ The Suburbs, while bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jesse formed International Orange and Hotel Lights respectively. The quality of Folds’ subsequent solo releases has varied; Way To Normal (2008) was quite frankly a bit of a mess whilst conversely he is still yet to surpass the brilliant Songs For Silverman (2005) which is a ponderous, melancholic and powerful piece.
After a gap of nearly ten years the band reunited in 2008 for a one-off show for Myspace, in which they played their third album The Unauthorised Biography of Reinhold Messner, in it’s entirety. In 2011 they reunited once again, this time to record three new tracks for a Ben Folds retrospective album. Though rumours swirled, a proper reunion seemed elusive until January of this year when Folds confirmed via Twitter that a new album was on the way and tours for America and Europe were subsequently announced.
The new album, entitled The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind, is due to be released on September 18th and has been described by Folds as being recognizably a Ben Folds Five album yet “has a few pretty damn radical moments and is actually a pretty heavy record”. The first single, Do It Anyway is a fine example of this; Robert Sledge’s distorted bass is instantly recognizable, buoying the song with his fast, melodic playing, while the dissonant crashes and soaring background vocals all ring of classic Ben Folds Five. It still sounds fresh, inspired and lively though, and with Folds claiming that the band easily have enough material for a further two albums this is hopefully the first sign of a band revitalized and ready to return to the fore of rock music.
Standout track: Do It Anyway
Listen to Do It Anyway here