This fall, new albums are dropping from The Wallflowers, No Doubt, Matchbox Twenty, but perhaps the most delightful 90s rock "reunion release" so far is Ben Folds Five. The trio's new album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, is fresh, fun, clunky-piano candy dripping in lyrical charm.
The album's title track is one of two songs not penned by Folds; "The Sound of The Life of The Mind" was actually written by author Nick Hornby (About A Boy, High Fidelity). The other non-Folds song is "Sky High" by Five Folds drummer Darren Jessee. "Sky High" is a dreamy, traveling song that compliments the faster, trademark chaotic fun pieces that dominate this album.
"Erase Me" is the perfect opening for the album that signals the return of Folds's quirky lyrics and notes spinning in a storm of up and down/ slow and fast emotional processing. The group also infuses some retro sunshine into "Michael Praytor," which has a Beach Boys' twang to it.
The expectations are high for any band releasing a new album for the first time in thirteen years, but The Sounds of The Life of The Mind doesn't seem to succumb to that pressure instead it blows it away; it is that individualism and uniqueness in the group's approach and music that make it work. "Do It Anyway" is a manifest on cutting loose and giving into what you want to do no matter what others may think: "Paralyzed by a voice in your head/ It's the standing still that should scare you instead." The song "Draw A Crowd" takes this free-spirited, impulse driven notion one step further with the catchy chorus "If you're feeling small and can't draw a crowd/ draw dicks on the wall."
For all their rambling, energetic uptempo and beautiful ballads ("Hold That Thought" is a standout), Ben Folds Five does what many can't; they keep doing it better.
See Ben Folds Five live at The Tabernacle on September 18. Get tickets!