REVIEW: Ben Folds disappointing Songs for Silverman

Posted by Al Barger on June 05, 2005 03:37 AM (See all posts by Al Barger)

One wants to be generous with Ben Folds. In the current non-musical environment, Ben Folds ranks as a serious songwriter and a real honest-to-God musician. This already puts him head and ears above the ignorant gangsters and white noise-makers that account for most current pop "music."

Songs for Silverman ain't bad. There are actual melodies to all these songs. They were obviously carefully crafted by a skilled musician.

Ben FoldsThing is, the songs just aren't all that good. Ben Folds is a professional songwriter and performer. It was time for a new album. He wrote a new batch of songs to the best of his ability, and recorded them. He just didn't have any particularly strong inspiration.

None of these songs are particularly memorable. For starters, the songs aren't very catchy. I can halfway follow along with the flow of them while they're playing, but can't remember anything five minutes after hearing the album. That's after multiple listens over several weeks.

Nor do any of these songs have a real compelling or unique emotional charge that would be memorable. Think how "Rockin' the Suburbs" had that special mix of real angst, self-deprecating sheepishness about that angst, and pure trashy rock n roll fun. There just aren't any strong flavors like this on the new album.

The first song definitely rates as the best. "Bastard" has about the only thing on the album that I would qualify as a hook, "Why you have to act like you know when you don't know." Also, this reminds me somehow of the Band, whether it's the melody or the arrangement I'm not quite sure. This is the one song on the album that I might recommend plucking out for your ipod.

I feel compelled to say a couple of nice words for "Gracie." It's a valentine to his young daughter. You have to appreciate the sincerity and beauty of his fatherly devotion, but he didn't have anything particularly interesting or memorable to say. This recording will doubtless be a great source of comfort throughout life for his young daughter, though.

He seems to have bit of a hardon for the people in "Jesusland," but the melody wasn't quite interesting enough to motivate me to study the lyrics to bother figuring out the specifics of his complaint.

Devoted Ben Folds fans will want to buy this album out of loyalty, and it won't require too bad a willful distortion to convince yourself this is a good album. Less devoted fans might grab "Bastard" from Itunes or the net, or not- no big deal loss. I surely woudn't recommend spending $12-15 for just one pretty good song.

Holla Back!

Ben Folds Passionate Apathy

Music Sustains the Soul

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