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Pop/Rock - Released February 7, 1997 | Epic

Expanding on the hook-laden songcraft of their eponymous debut, the Ben Folds Five turn in another glitzy array of Todd Rundgren-esque, piano-driven pop on their second album, Whatever and Ever Amen. Though it isn't as consistently tuneful and clever as their first record, Whatever and Ever Amen has a snazzy sense of popcraft -- the hooks of "The Battle of Who Could Care Less," "Brick," and "Fair" sink in nearly as effortlessly as Billy Joel, Elton John, or Joe Jackson -- which makes the record enjoyable ear candy. Occasionally, Folds' smug humor -- whether it's the alternative rock skewering of "The Battle" or the borderline misogynist humor of "Song for the Dumped" -- can undercut his melodic gifts, but Whatever and Ever Amen is confirmation that the showy pop pleasures of his first record were no fluke. ~ Thom Owens
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$12.99

Pop/Rock - Released April 27, 1999 | 550 Music

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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. ~ Steve Kurutz
$10.99

Rock - Released April 10, 2015 | Epic - Legacy

Sony's 2015 budget-line compilation Playlist balances rarities and hits. The rarities usually arrive in the form of live tracks and are often some of Ben Folds Five's biggest hits -- "Underground" and "Battle of Who Could Care Less" are both here as live versions, not studio. There are also covers -- "Video Killed the Radio Star," a live version of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" -- along with the singles "Brick," "Song for the Dumped," and "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces," helping this to turn into a nice sampler of the trio's range, humor, and talent. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
$7.49

Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1995 | Astralwerks

The debut album from piano-playing Ben Folds' smart-ass trio is a potent, and extremely fun, collection of postmodern rock ditties that comes off as a pleasantly workable combination of Tin Pan Alley showmanship, Todd Rundgren-style power pop, and myriad alt-rock sensibilities. The gimmick here is that not a single guitar was used on the 12 songs; but the way that Folds and his bandmates unravel their instruments (piano, bass, and drums make up this combo), even the most hardened noise enthusiasts will hardly miss it (it's the melodies that carry this album, and Folds has plenty of them up his sleeve). Some of it is a bit coy -- Folds plays the joker as much as he does the musician -- but with the dead-on "Underground," they manage to skewer, and pay loving tribute, to the oh-so-hip indie scene from which they came. ~ Michael Gallucci
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$12.99

Rock - Released November 23, 2018 | Epic - Legacy

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$14.99

Pop/Rock - Released September 14, 2012 | Legacy Recordings

Outside of a decent yet forgettable, one-off new track that appeared on Ben Folds' 2011 Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective compilation, it's been an awfully long time since the Ben Folds Five have graced listeners with a full-on dose of their signature blend of nostalgia and snark. Sound of the Life of the Mind, the trio's fourth studio album pretty much picks right up where 1999's Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner left off. Anchored by the instantly familiar interplay between Robert Sledge's distorted bass, Folds' percussive yet always melodic piano, and Darren Jessee's meaty yet always lyrical drum work, the first two cuts -- the funereal, art-punk-infused "Erase Me" and the retro-pop gem "Michael Praytor, Five Years Later," the latter of which sounds like it was egregiously left off of Jellyfish's Spilt Milk -- sound like they arrived via wormhole. The band has always been at its best when allowed the freedom to run around and kick stuff, and those tracks, along with the frenzied "Do It Anyway" and the propulsive title cut, which was co-written with Lonely Avenue collaborator Nick Hornby, are right in the band's wheelhouse, but Folds' has made a name for himself as a proper AOR balladeer since the group's demise, and the Sound of the Life of the Mind reflects that change, allowing for a ballad-to-rocker ratio that slightly favors the former. Of those slower numbers, the lovely and unguarded "Away When You Were Here" packs the most punch, but it feels like something off of Songs for Silverman rather than Whatever and Ever Amen, and like the pretty yet forgettable "Sky High," it kills the momentum that was so skillfully applied before it. That said, sarcastic, sweet, subversive, geeky, and awkward are hard vibes to juggle, but Folds, Sledge, and Jessee manage more times than not to keep all of the pins in the air, which after more than a decade apart, is pretty remarkable. ~ James Christopher Monger
$12.99

Pop/Rock - Released February 7, 1997 | 550 Music

Expanding on the hook-laden songcraft of their eponymous debut, the Ben Folds Five turn in another glitzy array of Todd Rundgren-esque, piano-driven pop on their second album, Whatever and Ever Amen. Though it isn't as consistently tuneful and clever as their first record, Whatever and Ever Amen has a snazzy sense of popcraft -- the hooks of "The Battle of Who Could Care Less," "Brick," and "Fair" sink in nearly as effortlessly as Billy Joel, Elton John, or Joe Jackson -- which makes the record enjoyable ear candy. Occasionally, Folds' smug humor -- whether it's the alternative rock skewering of "The Battle" or the borderline misogynist humor of "Song for the Dumped" -- can undercut his melodic gifts, but Whatever and Ever Amen is confirmation that the showy pop pleasures of his first record were no fluke. ~ Thom Owens
$13.99

Rock - Released January 1, 1997 | Virgin Records America Inc

As the title suggests, Naked Baby Photos opens the vaults to capture Ben Folds Five in their developmental stages, splitting its 16 tracks evenly between studio rarities and live performances; about half have never been available before in any recorded form. In addition to those previously unavailable tracks, Folds collectors will be enticed by the band's rare debut 7", "Jackson Cannery," and the original demo of "Bad Idea," which the band considers superior to the version released on the Truth About Cats & Dogs soundtrack. ~ Steve Huey

Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1996 | Astralwerks

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1996 | Astralwerks

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