42: Whatever and Ever Amen (Ben Folds Five)

Album: Whatever and Ever Amen
Artist: Ben Folds Five
Year: 1997

1. One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
2. Fair
3. Brick
4. Song for the Dumped
5. Selfless, Cold, and Composed
6. Kate
7. Smoke
8. Cigarette
9. Steven’s Last Night in Town
10. Battle of Who Could Care Less
11. Missing the War
12. Evaporated

Ben Folds doesn’t have the best voice in rock, but gosh darn it he sounds exactly the same live as he does on his albums. And he can freakin’ play the piano. There’s probably not a piano bar player that couldn’t play his songs upon request, though unfortunately, most people aren’t too familiar with his work and that’s a shame.

The band’s second album begins with my favorite “to the people who told me I’d never make it: fuck you” song, and it only heats up from there. Fair might be my favorite song where the chorus has no words and is simply Ben singing “Buh, bah, bah!” repeatedly. Then you get probably his most famous song, Brick, an autobiographical tale about his high-school girlfriend’s abortion.

Song for the Dumped is just pure vitriol and great if you’re in the mood for it, not so much if you’re not. Selfless, Cold, and Composed is a extremely low-tempo, more even-tempered break-up song, and an amazing ballad at that. It initially didn’t do anything for me, but has really grown on me over the years.

Sadly, the album mostly sputters at this point until Steven’s Last Night in Town, which sports the lyric “Won us over with stories, about Linda McCartney; lost points with the ladies, for saying he couldn’t love a woman with cellulite.” I couldn’t care less about the next song, nor much for the next one either, as Missing the War is unbearably slow and Ben’s voice doesn’t sound so hot on the track, either. The album is saved at the end by Evaporated, a painful ballad that hints at a very dark secret that’s never revealed.

Like many of Ben’s albums, Whatever and Ever Amen is uneven, but there’s just too much awesome not to count it among my favorites.

5 thoughts on “42: Whatever and Ever Amen (Ben Folds Five)”

  1. A few days ago, Ben Thietje’s brother named Folds as his favorite lead singer of any band. I’m like, dude, no…it’s the songwriting tricking you there.

    Ben Folds has never particularly grabbed me strongly, but I never turn the radio away from his songs, either.

    1. Yeah. He would be in the running for my favorite songwriter, but his voice is about average. Much like Billy Joel. They both overcame average voices by knowing how to sing.

  2. Two albums in a row you’ve hit on one of my favorites. Definitely one of my favorite artists and I have several of his piano books. I listened to this one many times on my way to River Falls from top to bottom. The album doesn’t really sputter for me as I enjoy mocking tone of “Battle of Who Could Care Less” and like singing along with “Missing the War”.

    I used to skip “Steven’s Last Night in Town” but it started growing on me. If I skipped anything now, it would probably be “Kate”. I love the mood of Selfless, Cold and Composed and the instrumental section is great.

    Interesting tidbit: Cigarette is Fred Jones Part 1, if you’re familiar with Fred Jones Part 2 from Rockin the Suburbs. Also, the entire lyrics of Cigarette was a run-on sentence from a newspaper article.

  3. Another album that I have loved since I was a teenager. Not everyone gets this, and for all the reasons you said. I loved the first song. The energy, the anger. And I actually really liked Missing the War. It was a fun album. And he is an amazing piano player.

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