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The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner

Artist: Ben Folds Five
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: April 1999

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

It's not clear if it's because he's getting older or reacting to the success of Forever and Ever Amen, but Ben Folds is in a notably subdued mood on his new cd. Even though he got a hit single with the sad ballad Brick, it hardly seems that he's calculated that slow songs are the way to success. The confused young man of Brick who doesn't know how to deal with his girlfriend's problems is much different from the mature, world weary character on most of the songs here.

The tone is established immediately on Narcolepsy, which opens with Folds' elegant piano playing but then dissolves into the band's cacophonous playing. The song is a gripping epic. The recurring concept of being overcome by weariness is established. On Mess, he sadly sings of making the same mistakes over and over. Ben is clearly in a reflective mood. Both Army and Regrets start with "I thought about". The cd even includes Your Most Valuable Possession, an answering machine message Folds received about what really matters in life. He has fun with reflection on Army, a hilarious mock autobiography where Folds is a grotesque version of himself, and Your Redneck Past. The more serious tone pays off on the record's best song, Don't Change Your Plans. Because Folds seems so sad, opening with "Sometimes I get the feeling, that I won't be on this planet for very long", the payoff is tremendous when he sings "You have made me smile again" and "You're the reason I wanna stay." The music brilliantly parallels the lyrics. It starts subdued but ends with uplifting strings and horns. The album ends well. Jane is a very nice song about encouraging a friend to be herself, with a good mellow jazzy feeling. Lullaby is a more upbeat bookend to Narcolepsy, recalling a fond memory and ending on a message of hope.

The band probably works better in the the cheeky, rollicking tone of Whatever and Ever Amen. The tone there was nasty. One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces was about getting revenge for slights of long ago, Song For The Dumped was a bitter response to an ex-girlfriend and Battle of Who Could Care Less made fun of Folds' friends for their slacker ways. But the songs were great; audacious, cocky and fun. On Reinhold Messner, the only similar rockers are Army and Your Redneck Past. Reinhold Messner generally isn't fun but it is an interesting, mature work from a talented songwriter and band.

Review by MusicBox
3½ stars out of 4

Although it is somewhat a departure from their other two albums, on The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, Ben Folds Five still manage to pound out stirring melodies and emotional lyrics that make up what they call "punk-rock for sissies." Using the unconventional piano as the cornerstone of their trio, Ben Folds (piano), Robert Sledge (bass), and Darren Jessee (drums), created this album as sort of a concept album. It is a story of the life of a fictional character, beginning with the powerful Narcolepsy and ending with the peaceful Lullabye. Army is the closest the Five come to their old school style, which is probably why the song became the first single off this album. Although it may take sometime for a less dedicated fan to fall in love with this album, it will inevitably happen. It's impossible not to like the mix of piano, bass, and drums and the harmonies of Folds, Sledge, and Jessee that can send chills up your spine. Although hard to describe the style of music that this group produces, it's closest to the power pop genre. I wouldn't reccommend this ablum to a first time listener to the band, but for the experienced fan, Reinhold Messner is a must! If you are looking for new and innovative music, this album is definitely for you. It's like nothing you've heard before.

Here's what others reviewers have to say:

"...Folds and Co. embrace old-fashioned sunny-but-sad pop art echoing prime Dionne Warwick, 10cc, and Fold's beloved Captain Fantastic. It can be impressive..." 8 (out of 10) Spin 6/99, p.140

"...exhilarating, amusingly inappropriate and just plain silly by turns....fresh textures have been employed to considerable effect and there's an attention to dynamic detail and palpable compositional ambition that marks the album as a significant development..." Mojo 5/99, p.108



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