on 17 August 2001
A terrific album! It's as if there never was a Five, or Three or Two for that matter. It's clear that it's really only been Ben Folds One.
This is emminently listenable and driven by the strength of Folds piano playing - in one breath delicate, moving and soaring, in the next aggressively punctuating his sardonic and humourous lyrics. The lyrics are honest and human. Folds speaks to us like only a handful of extraordinarily gifted song-writers: Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge of XTC, the guy from the Eels, Lloyd Cole and, I'm ashamed to admit it, but early Billy Joel from the 70s.
Gotta agree with Amazon reviewer; there's not enough good pop/rock out there that's got the piano as its centrepiece.
Personal faves amongst these tracks is Annie Waits, Still Fighting It, The Ascent Of Stan and Losing Lisa. But really there's not a bad song here.
This is a ultimately a personal and triumphant record that deserves to be added to your collection.
It would be great to hear this on radio. Radio 2 or even Xfm, are you listening?
on 4 April 2005
BFF had a (deservedly) loyal fanbase, so I guess many of them would disagree with me, but in my opinion this is a better than any of those released by the 5. A mark of genius in songwriting is to make the complicated sound simple. Ben Folds does this time and time again on Rocking the Suburbs, as almost every track features some of or all of: weird chord progressions, modulation, huge wall-of-sound harmonies, intricate rhythms and awesome musicianship. The fact that it all fits together so seamlessly, that it sounds so organic and un-contrived indicates that this is a masterpiece.
The range of songs is fantastic. Many sound similar to his songs whilst with the band, such as Gone and The Ascent of Stan. However, it is on the barer, more stripped down songs where this album really comes into it's own. Still Fighting It, Fred Jones Part II and The Luckiest are three of the most gorgeous, heartrending songs you will ever hear. In particular, The Luckiest is love captured in musical form, and you would have to be dead inside not to empathise with the ache in his voice as Folds imagines never meeting his true love.
Any song I haven't mentioned is still an absolute gem, there is simply no filler on the album. The title track is often slated, given it is not typical Ben Folds fodder, but it is very tongue in cheeky and hugely catchy, and difficult not to like. The first two songs sound lighter, and have a distinctly pop edge to them, but again have hooks to spare, and taken in conjunction with track 3 provide one of the best openings to a record I've ever heard.
His next solo effort is imminent, so fingers crossed for more of the same.
on 6 May 2002
This is by far the best record I have heard this year. Although I have always liked the "5", I found this album ensured that I became a real fan. Every song on this record is nothing short of fantastic, from the superb "Annie waits" to the beautiful, sad "Luckiest". Every track on this album has its own story, and each is excellent in its own right. Particular stand out tracks include the first track "Annie Waits", "Zak and Sara", and "Fred Jones II", the sequel to "Cigarette" on "Whatever and ever Amen" (an excellent Ben Folds 5 album). The title track "Rockin' the suburbs" is far from weak, and is an excellent break from the (beautiful) melancholy that consists most of the rest of the album. On first listen it comes across as an technically superb album, with some excellent hum along tunes. After a few listens, however, you begin to pick up the lyrics and see where its real genius lies. I would recommened this Cd to anyone, from existing ben folds fans to people who've never heard anything by him before but want something a bit different- and will surely become fans after listening to this record. I cannot recommened this album enough!
on 20 February 2005
Compared to the Ben Folds Five records this is very much a studio album. This isn't the sometimes raw sound of his old band, this is the sound of a brilliant musician buffing a great set of songs until they positively shine. It's kind of cruel to point it out, but on this showing Ben Folds doesn't miss his ex-bandmates. He plays most of the instruments on this CD and demonstrates a mastery of them all. Even more than his work with BFF these songs have a personal touch and power than can really strike home. But above all, this collections of songs demonstrate that Ben Folds is a gifted composer and he can still rock a piano like no other
I'm loathed to pick a favourite ("Still Fighting It") and honestly can't pick a weakest track. There are no fillers here! Yes, the title track is a bit of a joke as Ben has a dig at American angst rock (despite what some bizarrely say in other reviews here, he's not talking about himself), but it's still a great track!
If you loved Ben Folds Five you'll more than likely love this. Personally I think it's every bit as strong as BFF's amazing first album. Ben Folds can and has gone on from strength to strength.
Having established a reputation as a talented writer of pop songs with his former outfit Ben Folds Five, Folds' debut solo album may take some people by surprise with its tender nature. 'Rockin the Suburbs' is essentially a collection of songs about personal anguish, from the girl waiting patiently for her date who never shows (Annie Waits), through to tales of religious exploitation (Not The Same) and unstable girls reliant on other people (Carrying Cathy). These songs are all light in sound, piano-led ballads most reminiscent of old BF5 songs like 'Brick', for some this will be a disappointment and certainly the first time I heard it I didn't find it instantly accessible.
On first play though there is one standout track, as just as the songs of one-night stands with girls who look like Axl Rose seem firmly in his past, Folds returns to familiar pop ground with the title track 'Rockin' the Suburbs'. Upbeat and poppy, with guitars and synthesisers, Folds offers a biting critique of the noticeably less talented of today's top stars. Although he doesn't name names, the remarkably clever styles of songwriting make it obvious who he's taken aim at: "Dunno how much I can take/Give me something I can break" is a good line, as Folds imitates thoroughly-whinging nu-metal meathead Fred Durst, and the bass solo at the end clearly takes a chunk out of KoRn. As all this is going on, Ben even manages to namecheck the people who *are* worthy of credit (Quiet Riot, Michael Jackson, Jon Bon Jovi).
To say that the best track on the album harks back to BF5 days should not take anything away from the rest of the album. Once you've heard the album through a couple of times, there are 5 or 6 brilliant songs here they just take time to grow on you, and I would easily recommend it to any Ben Folds Five fans or anyone into piano-led music.
OK, I'll put my cards on the table. For me, "Rockin' The Suburbs" is one of the greatest albums ever made. It remains one of the most loved and most played albums in my collection of thousands. I first discovered Ben Folds when the debut "Ben Folds Five" album came out and I heard "Where's Summer B." on the radio, bought the parent album and loved it. Since then, I have followed Ben's career closely and nothing has touched my life nor impressed me as much as this absolutely amazing album.
Performed largely by Ben himself, with only a couple of musicians adding cello, guitar and vocals to a handful of the songs, Ben's first solo album proper since leaving the Five behind is a masterpiece. It's excellently produced as well. From the sound of the piano lid opening before the first chords of "Annie Waits" to the last few notes of "The Luckiest", this is the sound of an artist exercising complete creative freedom, singing from the heart and making perhaps his most expressive album to date.
It is very difficult to pick out the best moments of this album. How can you choose between the beautiful, creative and yet heartbreakingly sad music and lyrics of "Carrying Cathy", the maddeningly brilliant piano solo of "Fired", the tremendously catchy "Losing Lisa", the kooky, fantastically-written tale of freshly-found-love of "Zak and Sara", the hilarious "Not The Same" or the tender, very human song dedicated to his Son, "Still Fighting It"? You know, I could go on, they`re all incredible songs. There's probably only one song on this album I don't absolutely love and that's "The Ascent Of Stan" - and that's merely rather ordinary, rather than being a bad song.
Nearly everything on this album speaks to me. "The Luckiest" is probably one of the greatest and yet most unusual love songs ever written. For me, Ben writes best when he's happy, when he is in love with love and life itself. His writing is at its most powerful when he attempts to convey joy, sadness and tragedy to us. This album is packed full of humour ("Fired" and the great title track, for example) and yet there's no evidence of the overtly sarcastic or near-nasty Ben which sometimes makes listening to his work uncomfortable and provokes my girlfriend into calling him a jerk. "Rockin' The Suburbs" is about as close to a perfect album I've ever heard - and you should hear it too.
on 15 December 2001
Well, with this its "As you were". Not a great deal different from the Ben Folds Five days, which i suppose is for the best, they were superb, as is this.
Its solid piano effect from track one, through to the end, rarely varying from a well worked formula, until the title track Rockin' The Suburbs, which is almost off the wall, adn as good as a kick in the teeth at 'rap homies'.
The mood of the CD goes from happy and upbeat, Annie Waits, through to sad, mellow and reflective, The luckiest. It also seems to go through all the emotions in between.
This CD's taken up residency in my CD player, one of the best Cd's ive heard for a long time, so crack one open for Ben.
on 18 January 2002
Any fears that the sad split of BFF would be for the worse are totally dispelled by this masterpiece of an album. With little more than his voice and a piano, Folds creates 12 entirely different tunes and melodies. For slow, sentimental ballads look to 'The Luckiest' and 'Still Fighting It', while strains of the late BFF are present in the title track 'Rockin the Suburbs' and 'The Ascent of Stan'. 'Gone' and 'Fired' are two of the strongest tracks but none of the 12 dissapoint. Rarely has an entire album been so warming to the ears. If this album was any better, it would be TOO good.
on 6 August 2010
I wonder how you are first introduced to this album, or CD, or whatever you call it. Personally, my brother sent me the CD from America because my nephew was most impressed by "The Luckiest".
I played this track in the car and as I drew up into the supermarket car park, I had to listen to the end and shed a tear.
Then my daughters latched on to a number of tracks - their favourites were "Rockin the Suburbs", "Fired" and "Annie Waits" (could this be the perfect song?).
Which helped me explore the whole album and, simply admire the versatility, balance and quality of every track.
I was no stranger to Ben Folds and had the first two Ben Folds Five albums, so was well disposed, but while "Sports and Wine" is perfect, some of the other songs are patchy. But really this album is consistently very, very high quality.
I must have 500 CDs, and this, in my humble opinion, is the best. And I didn't even buy it. And you know, I think I like the bloke and want him to succeed. I feel empathy with his anger, love and angst.
Please buy this album. It will do you good, make you feel good and make a minor contribution to the life of a thoroughly decent chap.
And if you like this, check out the A Capella album. too.
on 10 August 2001
Ben Folds' clear mastery of songwriting is evident in this beautiful debut ('Fear of Pop' not withstanding). The music is a balanced mixture of the personal bitter-sweet lyrics and melodies that were the Trademark of Ben Folds Five and 'Rocked-up' potential pop classics that demonstrate his keen understanding of the audience. Tracks like 'Gone' and 'Not the same' could well be Folds' Finest works. With help from the likes of John Mark Painter (of 'Fleming and John') and the frontman from Cake, John McCrea.