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Unauthorized Biography Of Rein
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Simultaneously challenging and accessible, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner is a song cycle about death and dying, people, relationships, optimism, innocence--you name it. On his first two albums, Ben Folds was quick to toss off bombs of blame (most notably on the vitriolic "Song for the Dumped"), but here he aims most of his criticism at the mirror. On the wondrously snarky "Redneck Past" he sings, "My ex-wives all despise me / try to put it all behind me / but my redneck past is nipping at my heels." Apparently he doesn't have a chip on his piano any more. The production is lush and ornate, with strings and horns embellishing Folds's usual quota of to-die-for hooks (which he seems to dash off as effortlessly as postcards from the beach). An obvious point of reference is Pet Sounds, but Ben Folds Five widen their scope to also include hints of Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, and even Queen, whose influence is front and center on the bombastic opener "Narcolepsy," a virtual homage to "Bohemian Rhapsody." Other highlights include "Army," a hilariously detailed indie-rock answer to Billy Joel's "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." --David Menconi
Top Customer Reviews
Granted, it's worth picking it up just for the excellence found on these songs. "Narcolepsy" begins with a bombast, an impassioned plea for help from a person whose life seems empty and dead that he needs to sleep constantly (I can definitely relate to this feeling at times). Crescendos of strings, fuzzy bass, and piano figures swirl back and forth as Folds implores "I'm drowning/Save me, wake me up". Truly impressive and it would've been a great centerpiece to form the album around. They carry the theme strongly on "Don't Change Your Plans," a song of sacrifice and love that treads a fine line between resignation and moroseness, with the horns adding just the right understated touch. Next comes the album's other real coup de grace, "Mess," a song for the hopelessly love-lorn if any. Sounding almost classical/Western in feel, Folds relates his musings on the mistakes he's made and that "I want to be for her/What I could never be for you" and declares he's forsaken from both love and God. Powerful as he leads on to "Magic," a plaintive statement on his affections, imposing drums and pensive piano window-dressing his lamentations. So far, so impressively good.Read more ›
On "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner", Ben Folds Five shows a vast amount of maturation, both musically (bringing in a multitude of different instruments, and more complex arrangements) and lyrically (the topic of death comes up quite a bit). There are a couple of tracks on here that have that classic, lighthearted BFF feel, but most of it covers new ground. It's kind of a shame that the band split after this (although Ben Folds' solo album, "Rockin the Suburbs", is just as good if not better than this, so it's okay). It is a concept album of sorts, but not nearly as conceptual as something like "The Wall" or "The Final Cut", both by Pink Floyd.
A BFF classic, right off the bat. It's 5+ minutes, and features a number of different tempo changes. The intro is a long, breathtaking wall of sweeping strings, heavy percussion, and [obviously] piano. The bridge slowly builds up, featuring incredible vocals from Ben..it seems like a perfect ending - but it's not. Another slow building verse in which Ben repeatedly sings "I'm not tired", until the music stops, and a blast of heavily amplified bass hits you like a train for the outro. The soft/loud dynamics are unpredictable, but perfectly timed, and give the song an epic, almost progressive-rock feel.
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And another 5+ minute classic. This one is an absolutely beautiful piece of Burt Bacharach-esque chamber pop, right down to the fluegelhorn laced bridge.Read more ›
It would appear that most people can't handle the change between the earlier stuff, and this more acomplished material. More fool them. From the powerful opening of 'Narcolepsy' through the silliness of 'Your Redneck Past' until the beautiful simple melody of 'Lullabye', this album reeks of cleverly written lyrics, and well-rounded musicianship. Anyone who can equally pull off 'Army' and 'Magic' on the same album gets credit from me. But then, I always have liked them.
Incidentally, I saw them on their last tour - touring this album, and it was quite easily the most entertaining live performance i have ever seen. The silliness was weaved in effortlessly with the outstanding music (much like this album) and Ben Folds Five guaranteed their place at the top of my list..
Most recent customer reviews
This album wasn't as great as the first two BFF CDs or any of Folds newer albums, but there are a few great songs on here. Read morePublished on April 17 2004 by S. B. Smith
After a couple of gems, and an increasing popularity, Ben Folds returned with a more subdued yet more slickly produced third album. Read morePublished on Feb. 14 2004 by Jimbobski
I bought this, I admit, for the title, only to have it turn out that these guys didn't know Reinhold Messner, but used the name for fake IDs. Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2004 by John Lacey
As soon as I listened to this CD, I loved song after song. It's not everyday you find a CD that's so intricately woven and beautiful. Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2004 by Meg Risso
Recently I purchased "Rockin' the Suburbs," by Ben Folds and I was shocked by the unique quality and consistency of the tracks, absent from so many of the newer artists... Read morePublished on Jan. 25 2004 by VacaChico
I bought this cd based on the reviews on amazon.com. I must say that Ben Folds has an ear for melodious songs, it is only a pity that is voice is so shallow and weak. Read morePublished on Dec 1 2003 by John van Maris
I listened to this cd on a constant loop from 2 PM to 4 AM the other night. I have since listened to it again at least 4 times. Read morePublished on Oct. 30 2003 by Haley
this cd is great ben folds is a genuis and i think everyone should buy this cd its highly recomended no matter what music you like i listin to punk and this is one of my favorite... Read morePublished on Sept. 27 2003 by matt carlson