Ben Folds Five

Review in Sydney Morning Herald

June 28, 1996

Ben Folds Five
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Here it is, the unabashed paeon to a decade of pop music which we now affect to disdain. Hello and welcome to the 1970s. 1970s America. I'm talking Todd Rundgren, the Rubinoos and, it has to be said, honorary American Wings and Peter Allen (don't stop reading, we are talking the sheer pleasure of a good hook line).

Your first thought with this album is "hmmm, this is a bit too cute", but there's enough there to encourage you to play on and reap the rewards. Alice Childress, the most Rundgren of the songs, has some bubble-gum harmonies that almost fall apart but hang in there beautifully, while Underground (with its Beatles' White Album middle eight) verges on the kitsch but stops just short - and is near fab for it.

Piano led, with no guitars (though this is not too noticeable - there's plenty else happening), this is punchy without having to pummel, bursting with fun. The song-writing is lightweight, with a definit nod to the Brill Building, in particular Burt Bacharach. Not cocktail music or nouveau musak, it's just deceptively simple songs.

You may find yourself enjoying this, despite your better sense, and then finally giving in and admitting it: you not only like this a lot, but you are singing it while sitting at traffic lights or waiting for the bus.

by Bernard Zuel
The Sydney Morning Herald, Metro supplement, June 28-July 4, 1996.

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