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Album Review

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.

Customer Reviews

Their best work, hands down.

I have been a huge fan of the Ben Folds Five since I saw them at the Horde Festival in 1997, and this is unquestionably their best effort. It lacks much of the pop or "college-radio" feel of their other albums, and it is truly a piece of masterful artwork. Each song combines a unique sonic landscape with painfully realistic and simple lyrics. From the moving "Magic" to the space-jazz ramblings in "Your Most Valuable Possession" to comically pathetic "Army", this album is a nonstop experience which is absent in the remainder of the Five's work.

This is only the second review?!?

I'm amazed more people haven't written about this album... For any Ben Folds fan, you should buy this album to experience the depth at which Folds layers sounds. He manages to incorporate so many different facets of music into each song, it's a wonder he's not more thouroughly recognized. "Narcolepsy" starts you off with a great, powerful, and slightly confused yet defiant rock opera. From there the album moves quickly and slowly, from happy to sad to mad and everywhere inbetween. "Regrets" is another highlight, an loungy, groovy, poetic journey through one man's memories. "Jane"-so true. I'm sure you're tired of reading. Perhaps I'm just tired of writing. Just buy the album.

unauthorized biography of reinhold messner

I for one hope that each album from a strong and creative artist is different. Did you think the same way as a kid as you do now? Have you learned since then? The thing I love about Ben is the only consistency (other than talent and fine, fine music) is the paradox he presnts between , well, happy and sad. His music conveys them simultaneously. Optimistically suicidal.Joyously depresed. Ecstatically gloomy. His solo albums are each like a ride through the spectrum of emotions, including humor.All set to unique melodies and orchestration built around an amazing pianist and songwriter. As good as any of his other albums ie; amazing.


Born: September 12, 1966 in Winston-Salem, NC

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Led by the pop-minded prowess of their namesake frontman, Ben Folds Five dispelled any misgivings about a band's ability to rock without guitars. Calling themselves "punk rock for sissies," the Chapel Hill natives were often grouped with the nerd rock movement of the mid-'90s, although their debt to jazz music -- not to mention Ben Folds' acerbic spin on the classic pianist/songwriter tradition -- ensured the trio a long-lasting legacy after their split in October 2000. The band also provided a launching...
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