Rockin the Suburbs, Ben Folds

Paul Wong
Dude, have you seen the size of that thing?” 20010911, arts, New Line greenlights, <br><br>Courtesy of Compaq

Epic Records

A year after defunking the Five, Ben Folds solo drop Rockin the Suburbs picks up where The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner left off, with melancholy ditties and a continuing reliance on quasi-mature pian-ic power ballads. Ivory tickl”d freakouts find themselves fewer and farther between in the Suburbs. Not lax and lethargic is Folds” sharp tongue, which is planted firmly in his cheek throughout Rockin.

Folds gentle coo on “The Ascent of Stan” is thrown off by his oddball lyrics “Textbook hippy man/Get rest while you can” and disjointed song-smithing the track later breaks out into a techno-warble induced popsmart schizophrenia.

Ben Folds harkens briefly back to the Five”s “Where”s Summer B?” with the narrative number “Zak and Sara.” The song combines the storytelling sentiment of “Jack and Diane” spun with a Billy Joel breakdown.

Folds adoration for AM radio pops, crackles and snaps throughout the Suburbs jaunting through the musical giggly-weeds with Folds” one-man-band-dom (he played all the instruments on the record) and his solo virtuoso bubbles on “Fired.”

Folds pulls the plug of irony on a few occasions, drip-drying the hankercheif on “Carrying Cathy,” a suicide ballad that was left off the band”s denoument finding itself a permanent home in the Suburbs.

The title-track rips and roars through a series of dynamic changes, sporting wit-rich lyrics and sarcastically pointed metal homages.

Suburbs is the old-man mature answer to the Five”s purveying juvenility and makes for a smarty-pants sing-a-long. Rockin the Suburbs is singable, smart and sardonic. Sham on.

Grade: A-

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