Home Read Classic Album Review: Ben Folds | Rockin’ the Suburbs

Classic Album Review: Ben Folds | Rockin’ the Suburbs

The piano-pop troubdour makes lemonade from lemons in his charming solo debut.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


“Everybody knows it sucks to grow up,” laments piano-pop troubadour Ben Folds on his latest CD. I don’t what he’s got to kvetch about.

On his fifth disc — and his first official solo album since disbanding his indie-rock trio The Ben Folds Five — the singer-songwriter finally seems to be handling his increasing maturity just fine, thank you. Unlike the often stuffy tone of 1999’s Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner or the arch artsiness of his Fear of Pop offshoot, Rockin’ the Suburbs finds Folds balancing his gift for touching, character-driven songcraft (like his old breakthrough hit Brick) with his twinkly wit (like his classic Underground). Utilizing his flair for jazzy pop theatricality to the max on these smart, Brian Wilsonesque tunes, Folds introduces us to a cast of familiar faces struggling to cope with life’s little letdowns and make lemonade from lemons. There’s the lovelorn heroine of Annie Waits; the psychic starlet of Zak and Sara who can see the future of dance music; Stan, the hippie who sold out to the establishment; the terminally depressed Cathy; Fred, the downsized newspaperman; and even his old bassist Robert Sledge, who hosts a party where someone overdoses and finds Jesus. The real life of the party, though, is the hero of the wickedly funny Weird Al-style title track. “Y’all don’t know what it’s like,” he gripes, “being male, middle-class and white … Sham on!” Get down with your bad self, Benjy.