Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Way To Normal

I got my copy of Ben Folds' Way To Normal in the mail today. I think Amazon needs to adjust their shipping so I get the album on the day it comes out, not the day after. Anyway, I bought it on beautiful vinyl, which has become my preferred format, but only if it comes with free mp3 downloads, or if it's old and cheap. The former applied to this album.

I've been texting back and forth with Trevor for a good part of the day about our feelings on the album (it's OK for guys to discuss their feelings -- after all, it's the 00s). Trev said that he saw it as Ben Folds' Pinkerton (if you don't know what Pinkerton is, please leave). It's not a conclusion I would've come to myself but in some ways I agree with Trev; the album is full of rowdy sing-along songs, fuzzy 90s bass distortion, and introspective and/or intensely personal lyrics -- a side of Ben we've seen before, just not in this way.

One of my favorite tracks -- the "Butterfly" of this album, if you will -- is "Cologne". I'm pretty sure this song is about leaving his wife. Actually, pretty much the entire second half of this album -- namely "B**** Went Nuts" and "Brainwascht" -- seems to deal with divorce. This got me wondering about Ben's personal life and what relationship it might have to his songs. I did a little research. According to Wikipedia, he was divorced in April 2007 and married again in November of the same year, which explains much of this album.

I've always thought of Ben as a pretty shameless guy. This is evident in the fact that he doesn't mind involving others in his songs. Sometimes for the better ("Gracie", "Still Fighting It") and sometimes for the worse ("Trusted", "Give Judy My Notice"). And he's been dropping names (from "Kate" to Lisa to Fred Jones) since his Ben Folds Five days. Probably most are fictional, but I can't help but think they're based on real people and true events. While Ben goes easy on the name dropping this time around, the subject matter comes across as very real and extremely autobiographical. Which, incidentally, makes me wonder what his ex-wife and kids feel about his songs. What does she feel about how she "went nuts"? How does she feel that thousands of people will hear about it? I'm probably reading way too much into this, I'm just a little curios, that's all.

It's hard not to like Ben Folds, and Way To Normal is hardly an exception. It's a little more profane than Songs For Silverman and Rockin' The Suburbs, but it's still quite accessible and easy to get into. "Hiroshima", "Cologne", and "Brainwacht" are my favorite tracks.


  1. You just made me really want to listen to this album. I hope you're happy!

  2. Speaking of old and cheap records, have you been to the D.I. in Mesa recently? Whenever my parents/brother/sister and brother in law would do a session at the temple I would tag along and have them drop me off at D.I. Anyway, last time I was there they had a TON of records and they were all 4 for a dollar. I didn't have much time to look, and there were quite a few Jane Fonda workout and old Disney records (could be fun) but I'm sure there were some real gems buried underneath.

  3. Harper -- You really should listen to it if you haven't yet.

    Leah -- Yeah, I've never really taken thrift stores seriously for vinyl, but one of my friends recently scored like a dozen awesome records at the Goodwill by his house, so I've been a little more open minded to thrift store vinyl. I'll have to check the DI back home.

  4. In addition to the similarities to Pinkerton that you listed, I give you a couple more:

    For some reason this album seems partially asia-centric (I didn't understand it with Weezer either). Hiroshima, Dr. Yang, Tokyo, Gurus, his meditation pose on the cover.. ya know?

    Also, the recording quality sounds deliberately messy and live, one of my favorite things about Pinkerton. Big, bangy drums and fuzziness and little imperfections.

    Good post, I think I'll write my version on my blog.