Ben Folds Five | The Sound of the Life of the Mind (ImaVeePee/Sony)

cd ben-folds-fiveThis record was made for fans, not for anyone else.

 

It’s hard to believe it has been 13 years since Ben Folds Five put out a record, and it seems like they have picked up just where they left off.

While The Sound of the Life of the Mind takes some twists and turns, the overwhelming theme is present, heartbreak, depression, and the realization of aging all consume the record, but it fits. These are no longer the young men you listened to 15 years ago; these are grown men who have their own issues and have grown up themselves, a lot.

It’s almost hard to review an album like this, one that seems out of date, yet pulls on the heart strings of my youth. The album opens with “Erase Me,” a self-depreciating track so fitting that it sets the tone for the rest of the album. Fuzzed-out bass leads most of the track and fits with Folds’ vocals quite well. It seems only appropriate that the group would immediately start with a track like this, one that seems to be the story of the band itself. While they had their moment in the ’90s, it is hard to place a group that attempted to outside of the scene it was so much a part of. The joke was funny then, but will you even want to hear it again? I know I do.

The Sound of the Life of the Mind isn’t just another Ben Folds solo record; this really feels like a group effort again. Sure, the piano-rocking Folds is still the focal point, but a track like “Sky High” stands out as a group effort. The piano in the track is present, but doesn’t seem nearly as important as if this were a solo record. One of the main strengths of the record in general is the percussion throughout. Darren Jesse is a great addition to Folds and his sound is still spot on. Meanwhile, Robert Sledge rocks the bass like few others in the modern day, utilizing fuzz almost like a weapon on certain tracks.

Don’t get me wrong: I know there is nothing new or terribly different on this record, but there is something to be said of it. In a time when everyone else is busy adapting to a changing music scene, incorporating electronics and elements of dub step, this couldn’t be further from the next buzz-worthy record. Maybe that sounds like a negative, but it is refreshing. This record was made for fans, not for anyone else. If you enjoyed any of the Ben Folds Five records, you will enjoy this one, plain and simple.

For this reviewer, one of the most interesting tracks was the closer on the record, “Thank You for Breaking My Heart.” The piano is beautiful, tasteful, and something that so many could easily enjoy. It is something so distinctly from the past that now a days it seems even more important. Sure, it sounds like a show tune, but isn’t that what the album feels like? It is a story, a timeline through which we are walked. This conclusion seems heartfelt to me, like Folds is almost saying goodbye, thanks for the ride. If there is another record, I would expect a bit of a change, but The Sound of the Life of the Mind would act as a great farewell to all the fans. B | Alex Hodschayan

RIYL: Tori Amos, Everything but the Girl, Jukebox the Ghost

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