There was a time in my life as I went through college and spent many long summer hours hanging out smoking cigarettes and playing hackey sack that Ben Folds Five were my constant companions. My friends like the band well enough, but I felt I really connected with Ben. His songs circled around thoughts that I too shared from time to time such as “Song for the Dumped” or “Jackson Cannery”. This connection lasted for many years, after a couple of live shows and all of the albums. Then the band faded away and Ben went solo and it just wasn’t the same for me.
But now they’re back. Ben Folds Five is back and I’m pretty damn happy about it.
Digging into “The Sound of the Life of the Mind” is a tentative experience at first. For a fan such as myself, you want to be overjoyed that one of your favorite bands are back yet, you want to be cautious in case that those fond memories look better through your rose colored glasses of nostalgia. Then after “Erase Me” is over you realize it’s a bit different for the band, but the talent’s still there and you warm up to the return and the excitement begins to build. Over the next few songs, this feeling of familiarity begins to grow and your toes start to tap and you begin to find yourself lost in the melodies and harmonies and you almost feel at home! And then, it happens: track 6, “Draw a Crowd” starts to hit your ear buds and the moment is complete. Ben Folds Five has returned and looking back over those previous five tracks, you realize they were back all along and all is well.
“The Sound of the Life of the Mind” is a solid return for the band though it takes a bit of time to realize it. From the middle of the disk on, you realize you’re in familiar territory and everything feels as comfortable as it once did. The album has a definite tone to it, one that starts out hopeful and grows into something that sounds near motivating right around the time that “Do It Anyways” hits. Then, the album turns a corner and the tone becomes a bit wistful and ends on a melancholic note that has a hint of sadness that leaves you feeling like you just took an emotional trip with the band, which is good. Because that’s exactly how it felt listening to Ben Folds Five back in the day.
While I’ve only given the disk one listen, I can say for sure that I’ll be back for several more.
In the meantime, be sure to check out the awesome trailer for the first single “Do It Anyway”! It’s got a great cast. Be sure to stay to the very end for nostalgia’s sake as well!