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Old 10-02-2008, 12:10 PM   #1
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Ben Folds - Way to Normal

Okay, so I've had this for a few days now. I have very, very mixed feelings about this album. I didn't like it much at all in the beginning, but it's growing on me. My general impression is that Ben is trying to recover some of the fanbase he alienated with Songs for Silverman. That album was, admittedly, not his best album. For me, it was too musically same-y. Lyrically, it struck a good balance between his sincerity and scathing cynicism.

This time, the music is frantic and largely as angry as the lyrics. It's as if the last two albums are the distilled halves that made Rockin' the Suburbs so good. As I said, I'm coming to a better place with the album, probably a 7 or 7.5 out of 10. But it may go up, depending on how much I end up liking the individual tracks. As a whole, however, it makes no sense and does not flow. It's very disappointing and shows again how much Darren Jesse and Robert Sledge contributed to the cohesiveness of all three Ben Folds Five albums.

1. "Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head)" - This is a musically fun, amusing anecdote about Ben playing in Japan after busting his head open. It's self deprecating and fun, no complaints here. (8/10)

2. Dr. Yang - One of the more musically interesting tracks, but the vocal melody and lyrics are sub-par. (6/10)

3. The Frown Song - Quickly becoming my favorite song on the album. More dynamic arrangement, good melody in which to embed a bileful song. (10/10)

4. You Don't Know Me (w/ Regina Spektor) - The first single and an obvious highlight. It's got both sentiment and an angry underbelly. Obviously inspired by his recent divorce, and I like it more now than when it was released. (9.5/10)

5. Before Cologne - musical prelude. No rating really needed, but it is pretty.

6. Cologne - seems to meander a bit, but it's gorgeous and lush. (8/10)

7. Errant Dog - Awful, mildy amusing, but awful. Ben trying to be smartass Ben with a fast but boring arrangement. (4/10)

8. Free Coffee - Sounds like a reject from Fear of Pop. Interesting concept (celebrites get free stuff when they don't need it free), but a bit cliche. (5/10)

9. Bitch Went Nuts - Misognystic and stupid. The un-clever sequel to "Song for the Dumped." (2/10)

10. Effington - One of the "funny" songs that actually works, and has a great choral introduction. Another highlight. (8/10)

11. Kylie from Connecticut - One of Ben's character portraits, not quite up there with Fred Jones Pt 2 or Alice Childress, but strong nevertheless. (7.5/10)

Those are my thoughts. Does anyone else even care anymore?
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Old 10-02-2008, 02:26 PM   #2
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I'm always curious about what Ben is doing, and upon one listen, I like the album.
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Old 10-03-2008, 01:11 AM   #3
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Any songs as good as Landed?
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Old 10-03-2008, 08:31 AM   #4
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Any songs as good as Landed?
No, not really. "You Don't Know Me" and "The Frown Song" are probably the two that come closest, and maybe "Kylie from Connecticut" which is growing on me yet. The thing is, I find this a much more generally listenable album than Songs for Silverman, but that album had real standouts that I think are among Ben's best moments - "Landed" being perhaps his best song ever, along with "Bastard," "Late," "Jesusland" and the re-recorded "Give Judy My Notice." Basically, the low points on Way to Normal aren't quite as low as the ones on Silverman, but the high points are fewer and not as high.

The sad thing is, his gift for melody is so strong that it might alone move the album up for me. Even though some songs, particularly "The Bitch Went Nuts," are so sophomoric and juvenile, they are still fabulous to listen to.
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Old 10-03-2008, 02:09 PM   #5
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I'm finding myself revising my reading of "The Bitch Went Nuts" as misogynistic. The first copy of the song I had was from iTunes, and lacked the introduction that the physical CD has. It really does change things. The iTunes version begins quite abruptly as follows:

The bitch went nuts
She stabbed my basketball
And the speakers to my stereo
She called me cunt
But nothing prepared me for
What I found when I came home

Oh and I
Make my own bed
I lie in it
You lie in yours (you lie, you lie in yours)
But they want more
They're at my door
With torches
Please leave me alone
You know just shut it just shut it just shut it

The bitch went nuts
She photoshopped my face (shopped his face)
On to every boy who'd done her wrong
Then she burned them telepathically
Onto the brains of all her embittered drones

Oh now
Now they want more
They're at my door
With torches, scores and scores and scores
To settle with themselves
Who would have thought
I'd scorned them all
They've got a doll of me
They're burning, they're burning, they're burnin
Their own memories

Why do they all know? (Go!)

The bitch went nuts y'all
But everyone said she might
Oh, holy fuckin' shit
Seriously now
Now they want more
they're at my door
with torches, scores and scores
You would have thought
I'd scorned them all
They've got a doll of me
They're burnin'

Why do they all know? (Go!)

The introduction (spoken by a cliche and somewhat orientalist Kung fu type master - but that's another discussion altogether) is as follows -

"The answer you seek my son only poses more questions.
Ask many woman why relationship has failed each woman offer unique reason for demise. One woman might say man could not commit or man is douche and is now free to make love to himself instead. Another woman might say man has changed or even man no longer satisfactory father. But, my son, ask many men same question all over the world why has relationship failed, each man each time will give same simple answer..."

The women are giving legitimate reasons (and a few humorous ones), but the men are described as singularly minded, and I feel like Ben is taking a jab at men (himself included) who reduce a complex situation like a break-up/divorce into something like "the bitch" going "nuts." Yes, we all get that feeling, but I think the intro suggests that he at least realizes the problems inherent in this perspective.
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Old 10-03-2008, 07:18 PM   #6
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i saw him live last week, most of the set was a mix of the new "real" album and the "fake" album. my buddy got the album, i haven't heard it yet. i'm just bummed out the version of "bitch went nuts" on the real album isn't the better of the two.
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Old 10-03-2008, 11:02 PM   #7
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hey ul, do you by chance have the fake album?
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Old 10-04-2008, 01:27 AM   #8
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the new album is sick! the first time i listened to i didn't think that the material really sounded like Ben, but the second time through it sank in a little bit more. it's the kind of album that has to grow on you.
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Old 10-05-2008, 03:22 PM   #9
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hey ul, do you by chance have the fake album?
No, I don't. I do intend to hunt it down, though. It is, I believe, pretty widely available.
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Old 10-05-2008, 09:09 PM   #10
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yeah, i managed to track it down...
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Old 10-05-2008, 10:55 PM   #11
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What's all this about a fake album?
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Old 10-06-2008, 08:13 AM   #12
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Ben and co. were bored in Dublin one night, recorded fake versions of a number of Way to Normal tracks and deliberately leaked them with fake cover art and everything.
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Old 10-09-2008, 11:27 PM   #13
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Oh... so where do we *do* we find this fake album, then?
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Old 10-10-2008, 12:49 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 11.18.08 View Post
the new album is sick! the first time i listened to i didn't think that the material really sounded like Ben, but the second time through it sank in a little bit more. it's the kind of album that has to grow on you.
what he said
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Old 10-18-2008, 10:02 AM   #15
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Oh... so where do we *do* we find this fake album, then?
google should pull you tons of torrents.

wokeupwaytoolate.com in the "file dump" has it.
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