Happy Birthday to Ben Folds!

benfoldsBefore Ben Folds completed his Kafka-esque metamorphosis into actual Elton John, he used to be quite a firebrand. With the group Ben Folds Five, he managed to write the universal words of punk rock in the script of the jazz trio. The result was something utterly unique; the combo of piano/bass/drums conjured up more than enough sound and fury to make the listener forget that there is no guitar in sight. Songs like “Underground” and “Julianne” firmly established Folds as one of the most catchy-yet-cynical artists since…well..Elton John.

Bonus points to Folds for writing his own lyrics. In reality, to compare Folds to John somehow sells both of them short. Ben Folds can write a searing twist to rival Warren Zevon or Elvis Costello. Songs like “Selfless, Cold and Composed” are loaded with resentment and bile. In fact, The song might be the single most bitter song I’ve ever heard. It out-performs your average punk song without the aid of volume. We’ve all delivered true emotion and love only to receive a paper-thin facade in return. We pour our heart out, only to be met with a mindless pleasantry, a platitude in the face of something real and unique. It’s devastating, especially when you used to share so much with that particular person. 

I suppose we should be glad that Folds lived to tell the tale. Ben Folds Five released four albums (three amazing, one good) and he’s had a blooming solo career (while being a mid-tier reality show judge). For my money, Folds was never better than with his eponymous trio (mad props to Robert Sledge and Darren Jessee). In other news, Ben Folds turns 50 years old this week! Time ravages all, indeed! 

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Photo credit: By Michael Nutt (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nutt/137111439/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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