Review: Ben Folds – Way To Normal [2008]

“Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hits His Head)” opens up the latest effort, Way To Normal, of piano rock legend, Ben Folds. The album begins with a stomp rock tune in the style of “Benny and the Jets,” with artificial crowd cheers in the background. Like everything else that Ben Folds has done, this track has an irresistible melody that has the listener singing along and head-bobbing like a fool (DOWNLOAD NOW!).

“Dr. Yang” is equipped with a fast intro and a loud buzzing snare, cymbals, and synthesizer. This song has a few moments of dance-able bliss, but the obnoxious sounds can leave the listener disturbed.

“The Frown Song” begins with drums and alien buzzing sounds, before Folds starts singing the verse. It is a nice experimental trip taken by Folds – he even works a “f*ck” into the verse. There are beautifully constructed harmonies in the choruses and a sweet stadium anthem clap beat [2:18].

“You Don’t Know Me” features Regina Spektor on lead and backing vocals. The intro has an R & B pop feel, but that is only temporary, as Ben Folds is far too talented to end up in the direction.

“Before Cologne” is a short (0:53) but beautiful piano ballad that leads into the next track.

“Cologne” is a piano ballad with a cheesy but interesting line in the refrain: “4-3-2-1 I’m letting you go.” Cheesy, because it is cheesy, interesting because it has been stuck in my head all day — obviously this is the first single from the record.

“Errant Dog” gets the listener head-bobbing like a fool again. There is a great bass line in this short track reminiscent of Robert Sledge, from the Ben Folds Five days.

“Free Coffee” seems to be one of those ridiculous songs about nothing. Why? Well, the lyrics tell a story of how the narrator receives free food and coffee now that he is rich. This track features a strange percussion part that gives the listener a headache.

“Bitch Went Nuts” might be one of the most fun songs on the record as it is reminiscent of the classic track, “Song For The Dumped,” but falls short of the nerdy punk classics’ greatness.

“Brainwascht” contains some funky bass lines, but has an annoying drum beat.

“Effington” is an effing fun and funny effing song, or at least the effing lyrics are effing fun.

“Kylie From Connecticut” closes Way To Normal and sounds like several Ben Folds’ ballads that we have heard before about a specific individual. Unfortunately, Kylie is married but has feelings for another man because they had one “magical” night. The Gears of Rock does not condone such thoughts or acts of infidelity, thus, cannot approve this track.

Although, there are some catchy and ultra fun melodic moments on this record, Way To Normal lacks the almighty awesomeness of the original Ben Folds Five. Please consider giving Robert Sledge and Darren Jessee a simple phone call to make a BFF reunion permanent — C’mon, get the army back together…I ain’t f*ckin’ high [excuse the silly BFF pun; it was necessary].

Discography:

Ben Folds Five [1995]

Whatever and Ever Amen [1997]

Naked Baby Photos [1998]

The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner [1999]

Rockin’ The Suburbs [2001]

Ben Folds Live [2002]

Songs For Silverman [2005]

Way To Normal [2008]

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