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Rating: 5 of 10

Ben Folds - Songs for Silverman

Speaking as a long, long, long-time Ben Fold fan, the new record is my least favorite of all his output. It's unfortunate, but Ben Folds has gotten wimpy and I completely attribute this to his level of happiness. Having incredibly cute twins and a beautiful life in your Australian home does not help to produce good music in nearly all cases, Ben Folds being no exception. See the graph below:

Ben Folds Album Chart

As you can see, as he's gotten progressively happier, his albums have gotten progressively worse. Although I completely made up these happiness figures, I'm only mildly ashamed to say I hope his life gets a little tougher in the next year. He just needs something, anything, to get some of that angst back.

I can't say I'm happy about Ben's newfound wimpiness, but I'm also not totally disappointed with the album. Despite my misgivings, I have listened to it over ten times since getting it. Almost all of these songs are technically good and plesant to listen to. The problem is that I couldn't sing one of them to you right now.

I wish I could tell you that you should go out and give this album a shot, but I think you're better off buying his three EPs, which he put out over the last year or so on his own label, Attacked by Plastic.


this is awesome!!! and so true.

This is an unfortunately misguided sentiment, if an all to common one; The idea that one must be miserable in order to produce good art. Goodness, is this all we've learned from a few thousand years of artistic expression? You can't make good art unless you're severly depressed, trapped in abusive, dead-end relationships, on the verge of a breakdown, or anti-social and neurotic to the point of psychosis?

We've all got to work together to shake what I have aptly named 'Kurt Cobain Syndrome'. I use him only becuase he is the most recent artist in our collective conscious who was severly depressed but also brilliant. History is littered with them.

There are, however, a great number of artists out there who, while always teetering on a delicate edge of sanity and some dark, vast expanse of bedlam, are well-adjusted and continue to produce solid, heartfelt, storied work. I happen to feel the Ben is one of them

I love 'Silverman' and while artistic appreciation is a completely subjective study, I stand up in Ben's defense (and any artist for that matter) whenever people view his most recent material solely through the prism of his prior work. Of course it's a trap that we're all prone to step into now and again, but being an artist myself I'm intimately familiar with the err of such a practice.

First, if Ben had put out an album that sounded just like 'Whatever' or 'Mesner' or self-titled, he would get criticized for trying to capitalize on past successes instead of maturing as an artist. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Beyond that, and much more important, however, is a point that Ben himself succinctly outlined on the DVD of the making of 'Silverman'. He said (I'm paraphrasing) "People think that when you go to make an album you say to yourself 'Well I'm going to make my trippy concept album', or 'I'm going to make my angsty teen heartache album'...and it's just not like that."

Ben, like all artists, is on his own personal journey and is fortunate enough to be able to chronicle said journey through hauntingly gorgeous melody. He's even more fortunate to have found a large group of people who want to hear that chronicle because they think that every step of the journey is relevent. (I might even go a step further here and say he's damn lucky to have found a woman that loves him and to have two beautiful children but I'm sure both he and you are aware of how big a blessing that is.)

My overarching point here is that artists who are crippled with agony and existentialist ennui are not the only ones capable of producing quality, relevent art. Just because his delivery and asthetic have changed does not mean that he is not every bit as important an artist as he was when he was slamming out 'Jackson Cannery', 'Uncle Walter', 'Sports & Wine', or 'Redneck Past'.

Of course I know that everyone is entitled to thier own opinion of the album itself. I do not intentd to argue taste here. I respect anyone who does not like the record provided the reasoning behind the criticism is balanced and legitimate. I found your basic premise flawed and therefore recommend you go back and listen to 'Silverman' again. Listen to it a several times. It really is a breathtakingly beautiful album. It is Ben in rare form and he's sharing more of himself than ever before. And, yes, he has grown up a little. It happens to the best of us.

Thanks for letting rant. Now, can you help me off this soapbox?

Ben Fan