“Brick” balladeer swings between styles on new EP

By Ashley Trotter

The second I began listening to Ben Folds’ Super D EP I knew I had happened upon something special. A lively beat burst through my subwoofer filling the room with energy. Immediately I wanted to get up and dance.

As a cover of the Darkness’s song “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” came on the beat still kept me interested, as did the extreme piano for which Ben Folds is known. To my disappointment the lyrics were not so entertaining. Consisting of a string of peacefully sung “motherfuckers” it sounded like an opera gone horribly wrong. Fortunately, I would not be so disappointed by the other songs.

The second piece, “Kalamazoo,” changed the mood of the album completely, casting a mournful and mysterious pall on my surroundings. The piano was cool and steady. Then suddenly the beat and tone changed, taking me on a lively ride over excited pianos and pulsing drums. As the song wound down, the old mood returned, bringing the mystery of the music with it.

The song died out and was replaced by the steady pulse of “Adelaide.” For a second after the first pause, the instruments went crazy and then regained their composure just as quickly. The song stayed simple, but gained emphasis and feeling. Though not one of Ben Folds’s most intense works, the song does draw the listener in, and I listened to it several times just to absorb every part of what it has to offer.

The next song, “Rent a Cop,” came in with more of a ’50s drumbeat, quickly adding the modern buzz of a keyboard. Instruments dropped out as the lyrics began to jump all around me. As I listened to the steady, quick flow of words I could only think, “Why doesn’t he breathe?” The music picked up again with an exciting addition of sounds, and soon a lively set of piano riffs was added in followed by a spirited trumpet and more energetic piano. Ben had reached his crazed playing stage. If the song were played live the crowd would be jumping and jiving at this point. As if Ben had also realized this, the music slowed again. The piano died out and only the keyboard remained. One last trumpet blasted through the other instruments as the song reached its climax. A final piano line played, and then only a drum remained pulsing with that ’50s beat.

I listened on as a bluesy number began to fill the room, complete with a mournful set of lyrics and vocal games. Ben seemed to play with one set of notes, up and down, with that steady blues piano in the background. One moment Ben was excited and emotional, the next he grew quiet for emphasis. He built the excitement up and, much to my disappointment, quickly ended. At the conclusion of the song, the audience is told that Ben is covering Ray Charles’ “Them That Got,” yet he has somehow added his own flair to the already amazing piece.

Overall, I would have to say that this is certainly not Ben Folds’s strongest work, but it is entertaining and worth listening to. The cool melodies mixed with lively emotional lyrics will lift your mood anytime. Even the more mellow songs could never quite contain Ben’s energy; he is simply too invigorated by his songs to keep them low-key for long. Unlike many other artists, he can go back and forth between styles without losing the interest of the listener. Even during the weaker points of his music, Folds salvages the remains and creates something beautiful. The next time you are out looking for some creative music to dive into, I suggest Super D.