Musical Monday – The Sound of the Life of the Mind by Ben Folds Five

First, let me stress that this is a new form of review for me. It’s a first-response kind of thing. I listened to the album for the first time and I wrote down my first impressions of it as I went.

The album cover is so deep. GET IT?

I am, uh, less than kind to the album. But only because it isn’t very good!

Hm, this first song seems a little slow to start. I’m not too familiar with the Ben Folds Five – in fact I only know Ben Folds’ work – and this is odd. It’s got a nice build to an even stompy-feeling series of drum-beats and piano beats.

The second song is good, but it feels a little bland. It’s louder and faster than the first song but I don’t know, it isn’t hitting any chords with me (musical humor!).

“Sky High”, the third song, is soft. I think I’m supposed to be sad here. Yeah, this songs wants to make me sad or nostalgic. Isn’t working.

Ah, title track! You know, I think I’d like this a lot more if it didn’t sound like, well, every other Ben Folds Five song I’ve ever heard. I mean, I know their thing is ‘piano, drums, guitar’ but c’mon. There are more ways to mix that up than what is happening here. Oh here’s the part with real quiet drum-work and Ben Folds sings and plays piano. A small build, Ben goes “Oh!” and then they crash into the big loud part.

Ben, mid-‘oh!’, probably.

Well now we’re at the next song, “On Being Frank”, and they’re using strings! Like a violin or cello or something, I can’t tell exactly. It’s better than nothing! Still not very good, though.

I think “Draw A Crowd” has a line that goes “so smooth you can hear the beard” and of course the chorus, “If you’re feeling small and you can’t draw a crowd, draw dicks on the wall.” This, of course, is my favorite song on the album so far. And yet, alas! It still has that same sound.

I begin to suspect that Ben Folds and his Five just don’t play music that I will like. Oh well!

“Do It Anyway” was, I think, the single from this album. It’s good. The rambling piano is a lot of fun.

Time for another slow song. Hahaha, oh man Folds is going “a-woooooo” and it’s cracking me up. The song ticks away until it stops.

Another slow song? Which, let me see, leaves us with one song after this, so I’ll go ahead and predict that it’s faster and louder so the album will end on a high note. Anyway, this song, “Away When You Were Here” is another song that wants me to be maudlin. “All the things I wished I’d asked” and so on. These just don’t catch for me, but I can’t tell if the fault lies with the song or me.

Feels like he’s thinking it’s me.

Hm, okay, well the last song starts quiet and slow. Guess I was wrong. These low-tone songs are just making me sleepy. Here’s some abrupt drums for you – but they’re brief. Okay, now the song is rising higher, not any faster but just kind of coming up, like a song on Sesame Street would. And then the words end and the piano tinkles off.

Okay, so looking back, it doesn’t appear as if I enjoyed this album. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t. It wasn’t, uh, good. I didn’t like it because of that.

The slow songs felt forced, as if they were specifically designed to incite emotion, rather than being honest expressions of the author’s feelings. I discussed this with Tim, and he had an interesting point. He thinks that the slow songs are genuine. Not good – that’s important. But he thinks that they are genuine, which means that Ben Folds Five is just not very good at translating their deeper emotions into music.

Whether that’s true or not, The Sound of the Life of the Mind is not very good. There are a few okay songs. Everything else blends together, not only with the other songs on the album, but with other songs I’ve heard from Ben Folds.

Overall, I think this album did make me sad, but not in the way some of the slow songs wanted me to be sad. It made me sad because it was not a good album, and for some reason I thought it would be fun. Ben Folds has fun songs. He and his Five should have made more of those.

Do not bother with The Sound of the Life of the Mind.


About seansynthetic

" I says the the guy, I says to him, 'No, YOU ain't allowed back into this Chuck-E-Cheese.'"

Posted on November 5, 2012, in Musical Monday and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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