Ben Folds “Rockin’ The Suburbs”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#367 in the Series) is Ben Folds, Rockin’ The Suburbs

Ben Folds’ 2001 solo debut Rockin’ The Suburbs is one of those albums that kind of took me by surprise. If you’ve ever listened to his work either solo or with his 90’s band Ben Folds Five, it’s like sitting down listening to a friend tell a story. This release, however, was his first solo effort, and manages to balance  cleverness and vulnerability while maintaining some pretty impressive consistency. North Carolina native Folds is reasonably prolific, with over 20 albums, EPs, and compilations, and if you think you haven’t heard him before…well, you most likely have. He contributed to the soundtracks of Over the Hedge and Hoodwinked, so even if you’ve been devoting the last decade to parenthood he may have hit your radar.

The first track I ever heard was sent by a friend years ago, the “well didn’t you move on awfully quickly” jab at a former lover, “Gone.”  Thankfully it wasn’t meant as a personal message, but I still listen to that song and like it as much as the first listen. Folds’ wife sings backup on it, incidentally.

The title track was as close to a hit as he got on this album, and it’s a tight pop tune that provides sarcastic commentary on the “business” with some witty lyrics. The official video is rather entertaining, directed by “Weird Al” Yankovic, and it’s pretty obvious!  Some have criticized Folds for trying too hard to be clever, but for the most part it works, as in “Carrying Cathy” in which the somber subject matter is made into a beautiful song due to remarkable melodies and instrumentation. The closing track, “The Luckiest,” could be dismissed as schmaltz, except for that he wrote it after the birth of his daughter, and he’s so earnest about his gratitude that one can’t really doubt his sincerity.

Speaking of instruments, Folds played nearly every part of this album, and that’s impressive in itself. His commitment to telling a story about life in general is probably best demonstrated by the heartbreaking “Fred Jones Part 2.”  The lyrics “Life barrels on like a runaway train/where the passengers change/they don’t change anything/you get off/someone else can get on” seem uncalculatedly appropriate, since the release date of this album was September 11, 2001.

Check out the videos and the tracks, if you haven’t heard much of Ben Folds before you may just be a new fan.

— Kristin Morrisson

Track listing

All songs were written by Ben Folds, except where noted.

  1. “Annie Waits” – 4:17
  2. “Zak and Sara” – 3:11
  3. “Still Fighting It” – 4:25
  4. “Gone” – 3:22
  5. “Fred Jones Part 2” – 3:45
  6. “The Ascent of Stan” – 4:14
  7. “Losing Lisa” (Folds, Frally Hynes) – 4:10
  8. “Carrying Cathy” – 3:49
  9. “Not the Same” – 4:17
  10. “Rockin’ the Suburbs” – 5:00
  11. “Fired” – 3:49
  12. “The Luckiest” – 4:44

Personnel

  • Ben Folds – piano, vocals, drums, guitar, bass guitar
  • Larry Corbett – cello
  • DJ Swamp – beats
  • Richard Fortus – guitar
  • John McCrea – vocals (on “Fred Jones Part 2”)
  • Frally Hynes – vocals (on “Gone” and “The Luckiest)
  • John Mark Painter – conductor
  • Cameron Webb – engineer
  • Vincent Palmeri – acoustic guitar,vocals

Links

Posted by Kristin Morrisson


Leave a Reply

Before you post, please prove you are sentient.

what is 7 plus 5?