Monday, November 1, 2010

Ben Folds: Lonely Avenue

I've been a fan of Ben Folds ever since my days at WXAV when the debut album of Ben Folds Five was pushed into main rotation. I often cite him as one of my favorite musicians, ranking him just below Miles Hunt and Paul Westerberg. I have tended to liken him to a younger, more indie Billy Joel. He has created some of the most beautiful ballads along with some very catchy/poppy hooks. I've come to expect a lot from Ben Folds, and, most of the time, he doesn't disappoint. That being said, I had some very high hopes for Ben's latest album, Lonely Avenue.

Something happened with his previous album, Way To Normal. Ben Folds stumbled. I only liked about half of the songs on Way To Normal, which was surprising as I could usually listen to one of his albums track-to-track. When I learned that Ben Folds would be collaborating with Nick Hornby in a quasi Elton John/Berni Taupin type of team, I was certain Lonely Avenue would mark a return to greatness. Now, however, after listening three times to Lonely Avenue, I have to ask: What's the punchline?

This album is a tragedy. There's so much talent between Folds and Hornby that you'd think that they'd be able to come up with at least one track that was listenable. They didn't, though. There's nothing on Lonely Avenue that I can latch onto. The album feels like a collection of over-produced first-draft demos. It's like Ben tried to force the lyrics into fitting the music and tried to hide the fact by adding too many layers to the production. The songs drag, fail to build and fail to go anywhere. It's just a bunch of words and music thrown together with no direction.

I hate to say it, but I enjoyed Ben Folds' collaboration with William Shatner more than anything on Lonely Avenue.

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