Ben Folds is in a lucky position. He makes records only for Ben Folds fans. And after ten years he can probably keep going as long as he wants. But while that could make for a very lazy record, ‘Songs For Silverman’ is the most focused LP he has made since Ben Folds Five’s ‘Whatever And Ever Amen’.
The harmonies, fuzz bass and sloppy, cymbal heavy drums of the opener ‘Bastard’ are definitely a nod to his former band. His small scale lyrical world of dysfunctional characters is all still there too, and on songs like ‘Jesusland’ and ‘Landed’ it’s clear that he can still drop pure and tidy pop tunes like a battery hen laying eggs.
It feels less clunky and Ben-Folds-by-numbers than 2001’s ‘Rocking The Suburbs’. Not that he takes any huge musical risks here. But then people don’t go to Ben Folds for musical risks. They go to him for his slacker Carole King songwriting and brutally well observed (but generally benevolent) social observations and they are here in abundance.
There are some subtle developments. ‘Late’, his tribute to Elliott Smith, is more nakedly personal than anything he has done before and the tone of the record is less cheeky than he has been in the past. The arrangements are more expansive and atmospheric too and the touches of pedal steel guitar work well.
If you hate Ben Folds, you’ll hate this album just as much as anything else he’s ever done. If you’re a fan, you’ll be quietly satisfied.
8Julian Ridgway's Score