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4.7 out of 5 stars
29
4.7 out of 5 stars
The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 19 September 2012
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from Ben Folds 5 reforming, I loved their early stuff, it was young, angry and full of bounce. But they are older now (as am I!) and trying to go back to their roots completely would surely end up with a slightly desperate result.

This album feels like a bridge between the Ben Folds 5 albums and Ben Folds best solo album, Songs for Silverman, with the added influences of Folds jaunts into Accapella showtunesy melodrama (in a good way) and his story telling from the work with Nick Hornby. We have the perfect mix of the upbeat "Erase Me" and "Do It Anyway" to the moving "Away When you Were Here", the wistful "On Being Frank" and the wonderfully childish "Draw A Crowd".

Aside from the first two BF5 albums I have felt that all of Mr Folds work has included a weak song or two that I would often skip, I am quite a few listens in to this album and if there is a weak song I haven't spotted it yet. Part of me wanted a new "Underground" or "Battle of who could care less" but they have been done.

Can't wait to see them live in December!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 31 December 2012
It'd been quite a while since I'd heard The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind from start to finish, so, as it has been five years since its release, I thought it was about time I relistened to the album and gave it a bit more of my time. Back in 2012, I'd been a small part of the PledgeMusic campaign to help make this album a reality (hundreds, if not thousands, of people also pledged) and had been almost giddy with anticipation to hear Ben Folds Five back together again. Back in the mid-nineties when Ben Folds Five released their eponymous debut, it quickly became one of my very favourite albums of all time and has remained so ever since. Their follow-up albums were also exceptionally good, but, for one reason or another, the threesome broke up after their third record didn't perform well, commercially, and Ben Folds went solo, releasing the first album of his own, Rockin' The Suburbs, in 2001. That record went a long way to soothing my anguish after the “Five” split up, as, because I love it so immensely, I often cite it as my very favourite album of all time, but all three of the Ben Folds Five albums remained very special to me indeed. Fast forward to 2011, and Ben released a retrospective of his career, including three new songs which featured his old bandmates Darren Jesse and Robert Sledge (yes, for those who didn't know, there only ever was three members of Ben Folds Five). These sessions went so well, plans for a new albums were hatched and they soon returned to the studio to record Ben Folds Five's fourth long player in the January and February of 2012.

The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind is quite different to Ben Folds Five's other albums, as it is notably less immediately accessible (with the exception of a couple of tracks); it's the kind of record you need to listen to a lot to thoroughly appreciate, yet it also retains the sound and the spirit of the band, despite having to change producers (their first choice of producer, Caleb Southern, who had produced all of their other albums was unavailable, so Guster's Joe Pisapia stepped in to do an admirable job). There are so many excellent songs on the rejuvenated threesome's fourth record: Erase Me is a mighty opening track, a dramatic, minor key thunderstorm of a song, whereas Michael Praytor, Five Years Later is more the kind of song you'd expect from Ben Folds Five, a real key-hammering rocker, resplendent with some glorious harmonies and a joyous chorus. The piano performance and accompanying strings on On Being Frank are beautiful, reminiscent of Songs For Silverman era arrangements, and Draw A Crowd is, along with Michael Praytor, the most commercial, immediately catchy composition on the album, featuring a great piano riff and a thunderous performance from the trio. Do It Anyway sees Ben illustrating the song with a frantic, busy musical pattern; his playing is probably the most inspired on this album since the aforementioned second solo album, Songs For Silverman (2005) and the album closer, Thank You For Breaking My Heart is a beautiful, gentle composition, not quite in the league of The Luckiest (then again, what is?), but it's simplicity is heart-warming and captivating.

I wouldn't say there was such a thing as a bad or unenjoyable song on this album, but the Nick Hornby lyrics on the title track aren't particularly great (probably the only time when the album lyrically misfires and it isn't Folds' fault) and it feels as if the music is trying a little too hard to be bombastic and match the intensity of the words. It's still pretty decent, though. There are a couple of fairly enjoyable, if unspectacular, songs on the album too (Sky High, Hold That Thought, Away When You Were Here), which make this release not entirely great, but even the lesser tracks are easy to listen to and appreciate. If I'm completely honest, at the time The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind was released, it was a welcome return to form for Folds at a point when, after Way To Normal and Lonely Avenue, I was feeling that his work had been lacking inspiration and the spark of genius that had attracted me to his music in the first place. There were tracks on both albums that suggested he still had the talent there burning away, but the albums, on the whole, had been less than impressive, certainly to me.

Ben Folds Five's fourth album provided a timely remember of the band's importance to me and of Folds' immense talent; in fact, since this project, Ben's work has been nothing other than excellent, so the retrospective compilation and this album have been an effective and welcome catalyst in Folds rediscovering his very special creative ability. It hadn't gone far, of course, but this record, for me, is where Ben's music started to get great again, and it's absolutely wonderful to hear, especially in the company of Robert and Darren. Oddly enough, if you asked me to rank the Ben Folds Five albums from most to least favourite, this one would probably come in last, but it's like trying to rank the first four Crowded House albums; they're all fantastic, it's just trying to choose which one is not quite as brilliant as the others. I just hope this isn't the last we've heard of Ben Folds Five, because these three people together have a special chemistry that, frankly, I want to hear much more of.
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on 29 November 2012
It seems the Amazon reviews for this cracking album do it justice, which I'm glad about. But I thought I'd just add: most of the professional reviews of this record have been utter twaddle. First off: hacks expecting BFF to come back with nothing short of the finest album they've ever made, and mewling because they haven't, are frankly demanding too much. Second, a couple of reviewers commenting along the lines of "this is basically no different to a Ben Folds solo album, with a little more grit", are talking utter tosh. Finally, a handful of suggestions that Folds himself doesn't sound like he's in it to win it. Again, claptrap.

So here are the facts. No, it's not quite as good as "Whatever And Ever, Amen", but then which albums ever are? It's certainly better than "The Unauthorized Biography..." and whatever recent Folds solo offerings I've heard. It contains a slightly weedy closing track ("Thank You For Breaking My Heart"), a pair of mellow growers ("Sky High", "Away When You Were Here"), a pair of charming BFF mid-tempo ballads ("Hold That Thought", "On Being Frank"), four absolute old-school BFF stompers (the title track, "Erase Me", "Do It Anyway", "Draw A Crowd") and, finally, one inspired, original, energetic, eccentric and completely brilliant song ("Michael Praytor, Five Years Later") which is as good as anything BFF have ever created, now or then. The latter five songs will be enough to satisfy any former fan that this reunion is not a cash-in, shadow-of-its-former-glory travesty; "Michael Praytor", with its Steely Dan-on-speed harmonies and crunchy instrumental mayhem, could be enough to win BFF a whole new crop of admirers. Let's hope so.
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on 21 September 2012
A band that re-unites... That often smells of desperation, of cashing in after less successful times.

Well, Ben Folds certainly did not need to reunite with his two excellent bandmates from Ben Folds Five because he has established a remarkable and highly successful solo career.

So this new BFF album definitely was not made because of monetary reasons (and if it was it never sounds like it). Folds obviously wanted to work again in this format. And the result is one of the most hauntingly beautiful and fun albums of the year. It is filled with perfect melodies and lyrics, arranged with vibrant but never self-important ideas and virtuoso timing. In a better world this album would be a megaseller, dominating the worldwide charts.

Every song brings out a different impression of the band's multi-faceted abilities, from the wickedly sardonic and perfect opener "ERASE ME" to the barn-storming "MICHAEL PRAYTOR - FIVE YEARS LATER", turning inwards with the melancholic mid-tempo "SKY HIGH", changing gears again with the intricately fashioned rhythm of the title track "The Sound of the Life of the Mind", delivering one of the groups BEST BALLADS ever with "ON BEING FRANK", following it with the deliciously silly and rhythmically complex "DRAW A CROWD", diving right into the up-tempo country-punk lead single "DO IT ANYWAY", before going sweet, sad, ironic and melancholic with the closing trifecta "HOLD THAT THOUGHT" (with fantastic voice arrangement), "AWAY WHEN YOU WERE HERE" and "THANK YOU FOR BREAKING MY HEART" - three songs that bring an unexpected emotional power to the closing of this record.

Nobody can craft a melody that stays in your head after hearing it for the first time like Ben Folds. Once again he excels at what he does, and his two exceptionally wonderful bandmates Robert Sledge (bass) und Darren Jessee (drums) have definitely inspired the whole endeavour, lifting Folds to new heights.

A perfect album!
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on 18 September 2012
Well, my hopes were ridiculously high for this album...and having got it back from my local independent record store and played it from start to finish, I'm overjoyed to report that 'The Sound of the Life of the Mind' easily surpasses my greatest hopes for how good it could be. It's a phenomenal piece of work - funny, sad, beautiful - oh, and it Rocks. It Rocks like your Mommy. The best piece of piano-based punk rock for sissies you'll hear this lifetime!
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on 21 July 2017
It has been a while since I listened to this and just picked it up again.

I was a big BF5 fan back in the day and I have gone through the albums recently and this is the one I'm enjoying the most.
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on 19 July 2013
They've outdone themselves in all departments.
The lyrics shine brightest in Do it Anyway and Away When You Were Here. He can still tell stories as shown in On Being Frank which feels like the amazing 'Boxing'.
The songs can be heartbreaking "Thank You for Breaking My Heart" is maybe one of Ben Folds' most beautiful songs.
And yet they can still rock out as shown on Draw a Crowd which consists of probably their best chorus since Song for the Dumped.

The piano playing is at its best on Do It Anyway, Erase Me and Michael Praytor.

It's rare to have a band return after so long and release an album which feels like they were never gone. Yeah they don't sound exactly the same but that's because they're more mature, this is a richer kind of music.
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on 5 December 2012
Wow. What a return after 13 years! Yes, it's more "Silverman" than "Whatever & Ever Amen" and something of a grower but this is a really tight band at the top of their game who never had the acrimonious break-up and litigation (AFAIK) and so are just reliving their late twenties/early thirties and having damn good fun while they do it. There are a couple of old school 'bang it out' tracks like "Draw A Crowd" and "Erase Me" but there's a bias towards the more mature songwriting and instrumentals exhibited on the Five's last album (Reinhold Messner) and the later solo Folds stuff. I went to see them at Brixton Academy last night and apart from the volume being too low (and I'm 40 so I should be complaining about the opposite!) we saw a fantastic, energetic band who weren't scared to lay the new stuff on us as well as plenty of the old. Ben did remark (hopefully jokingly) that this CD has sold less than the number of people in the venue last night so buy a physical copy and enjoy...
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on 1 February 2013
Like other reviewers I was a bit worried that the magic of the BFF would be lost, or worse tainted, by this new album. How wrong can you be! They are older, and funnily enough so am I, and as if by magic they have written the new soundtrack to your life. Earlier albums reflected the anger and innocence of youth. This is wholly more mature and constructed with purpose and soul. It still has humour, outstanding musicianship and beautiful melody, harmony and lyrics, but it does it with confidence and energy, not a money grabbing "reunion" effort.

First listen "Sky High" and "On being Frank" jump out, but just listen again, and again and I dare you skip a track.

If you like BFF or Ben's solo stuff then this will hit and land very well. If you don't know his stuff then this a good place to start, but you will want to buy "Whatever and ever, Amen" and "Songs for Silverman" very soon afterwards. Enjoy!

David
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on 11 January 2013
The art work on this album is enough to satisfy on its own!! A lonely robot on his travels, beautifully illustrated and wonderfully put together!!!
And how funny to have a blank side for side four telling me I will eff up my needle if I play it and if I want I can draw a dick in the centre! And the vinyl is thick and chunky and with only 3 tracks on each side the needle fits in perfectly
As for the music Ben and the boys have come up trumps again! The opening track 'Erase Me' sounds like a seventies mad Sparks tune. Then Micheal Praytor and the lovely Sky High!
The rest of the album is just Bliss full The Ben Folds 5 harmonies, tunes and piano rockingness!
I've been a massive fan since the beginning seeing them at the 100 club, Ben Folds was good on his own with his 2 albums Songs for the silverman and his first solo album but the 5 together are back! Thank the lord for small mercies!!!
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