I loved Ben Folds Five, which is why Ben Folds Rockin’ the Suburbs is so disappointing.
I can remember not connecting with the album when I bought it. I wanted to like it, because I was a fan of Ben Folds Five. But something about the album felt off. It just didn’t work to my ears.
And now that I’m giving it another spin, I can pretty much point out why it didn’t work.
The album starts off with “Annie Waits” and you can hear the Casio-keyboard drum pattern. It sounds so cheesy that it’s distracting. And “Zak and Sara” is just a mess of bloated overproduction. Folds layers himself on the track so that he’s harmonizing with himself. And his “trying to be too clever” lyrics which point out the missing “C” in Zak and “H” in Sara. There’s literally nothing good about that song.
Maybe I just don’t like Ben Folds as a person. The title track is annoying in its attempt at humor. Or maybe it’s because Folds tries to achieve tongue-in-cheek humor and heartrending sincerity on the album, and each attempt undermines the other. Or perhaps it’s because “Carrying Cathy” ends to predictably.
The only song that I can say that I actually like is “Not the Same.” I don’t really know why, though it may have to do with the reference to Robert Sledge.
This album is really frustrating. It’s pretty much the reason why I haven’t picked up anything else Ben Folds has put out, regardless of the acclaim it got from a coworker. I guess I just wanted that Five magic or even filter. But pure unadulterated Ben Folds just isn’t for me.