May 23, 2005

Ben Folds Five "Whatever and Ever, Amen"

Has it already been eight years since Ben Folds Five released Whatever and Ever, Amen? Apparently so, even though it doesn't seem like it. This wonderful little record showed up during those heady post-grunge days, and it was a wonderful slice of piano-pounding, Seventies-inspired rock music that was highlighted by Ben Folds' clever songwriting. "Battle of Who Could Care Less" was the number that drew many people in--myself included--but it was thanks to excellent songs like "Kate" and "Song for the Dumped" that made listeners stay. The touching "Brick" became a surprise hit a year after the album's release, perhaps the only time a song about taking your teenage girlfriend to get an abortion made the top 40.

Still, what with this being the ten-year anniversary and all, Whatever and Ever, Amen has been remastered and expanded. My friends, this is a very good thing, because those bonus songs make this already great record even better. Songs "Air" and the very pretty "For All The Pretty People" shouldn't have been lost to obscurity, and the curious Japanese version of "Song For The Dumped" is also quite hilarious, especially when he sings in Japanese and then blurts out "you bitch!" That these excellent songs were regulated to B-sides show that even Ben Folds Five's lesser material still proved worthwhile.

The two songs that make this reissue worthwhile, though, are covers. My friend Kyle once said that he liked Ben Folds Five because they had the ability to make Archers of Loaf and Built to Spill sound like Billy Joel. The first cover is of the Buggles' classic hit "Video Killed the Radio Star," and as far as covers go, it's pretty faithful to the original--meaning, of course, that when you turn it up, it sounds great. The second cover is of The Flaming Lips' "She Don't Use Jelly," and the band turn it into a sexy, sleazy lounge number, complete with female backup singers, a seductive theremin and a general attitude that reeks of rum and dirty thoughts. It is, of course, a completely wonderful interpretation.

For those of you who have yet to experience the magic of Ben Folds Five, this reissue is a great place to start. For those of you who have loved Ben Folds Five for a while, this upgraded version is something you'll need--after all, it's probably safe to assume your original copy of this record is worn out. Besides, you'll probably wear this one out by repeated listens to "She Don't Use Jelly."

--Joseph Kyle

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