The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messnerby Ben Folds Five
The follow-up to the popular Whatever and Ever Amen, Ben Folds Five's third LP, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Mesner, continues the eclectic and clever songwriting that has become the group's trademark. Like other piano-based rock composers such as Randy Newman and Todd Rundgren, principal songwriter and de facto leader Ben Folds combines an off-beat world view with equally off-kilter musical arrangements to create a thoroughly original sound. The pseudo-lounge break in "Regrets," for example, or the downright silliness of "Your Redneck Past" set the Ben Folds Five apart from the hundreds of soundalike bands that the group competes with for radio space. What makes Ben Folds Five, and The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Mesner, relevant is their willingness to take musical risks, an anomaly in today's scene. On an album where there is a lack of instantly catchy hooks, Folds has the audacity to add a bizarre Burt Bacharach-ish horn section to "Don't Change Your Plans," one of the few radio-friendly tracks on the album. And in "Most Valuable Possession," the band uses studio trickery and an answering machine message left by Folds' father to create a bizarre spoken word pastiche. It is this willingness to forge a unique sound that makes The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Mesner such an interesting album to listen to. There is care to these songs and, what's even more significant and fresh, there is also intelligence.
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