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Hi-Fi High Five
on 29 April 2011
Some have called him, unflatteringly, a sweary Billy Joel. On his last album, Way To Normal, I wondered if he was aiming himself at the target of being a sweary Randy Newman. On the evidence of this collaboration with Nick Hornby however, Ben Folds looks like being tagged as a cuss-heavy Elton John. With Hornby as Bernie Taupin, of course.
Is that a bad thing?
No. While I've never really got along with Nick Hornby's somewhat self-congratulatory writing (and as someone who works in a record shop, take it from me - it's nothing like High Fidelity), on this album Hornby's four-minute tales of pain, loss, guilt and crushed wonder are exceptional and you have to wonder why he hasn't ventured into this arena before. From Above is perfect wistful pop, and the lyrical hooks stick in your head - "maybe that's how books get written, maybe that's why songs get sung" indeed. Belinda is the 70s hit that never was, as much suited to Manilow as to Elton; even the brash and sweary (natch) Levi Johnston's Blues sounds more like a glitter-stomp in places.
And, perhaps freed from having to bang on about his own relationships (as many suspect he was doing on Way To Normal), Folds himself relaxes and thinks more about the music. This album sits perfectly alongside Reinhold Messner and Songs For Silverman in tone and theme and is highly recommended.
Still not something you can play with the kids around though, unless you really do want them running about singing the virtues of being a redneck...