Picks and Pans Review: Rockin' the Suburbs
Ben Folds (Epic)
Prozac Nation has found its John Philip Sousa. Folds, who memorably sang the 1997 slacker anthem “Brick” (refrain: “She’s a brick and I’m drowning slowly”), this time heartbreakingly builds his piano chords to a surefire sing-along chorus for the perpetually disappointed: “Everybody knows/ It sucks to grow up” in “Still Fighting It,” about a father trying to connect with his son.
Folds—formerly of Ben Folds Five and now a solo act—plays a seductive jazz-rock piano that suggests Joe Jackson’s depressed little brother. But though Folds can make the keys of his Baldwin seethe and snarl (the must-you-dump-me track “Gone”), he also plays as prettily as Billy Joel (the tragic “Carrying Cathy” and the mocking “The Ascent of Stan”). Some story songs bop along merrily but to the beat of hearts getting stepped on: “Annie Waits” is a rewrite of the Stones’ “Waiting on a Friend” from a woman’s point of view with a final twist: “Annie waits, but not for me.” Other lyrics feature more painful losses than autumn in Fenway Park: That’s Folds at his finest.
Bottom Line: Gloom with a view