This piano-playing phenomenon burst onto the scene in the mid-nineties, offering a refreshing break from the crowd of grunge clones and neo-punk poseurs that flooded the music scene. Folds first emerged as part of a trio,
mischievously named the Ben Folds Five. With bandmates Darren Jessee and Robert Sledge, Folds fired off four albums of striking, startling music, as unique in its time as Billy Joel’s was in the seventies, and Bruce Hornsby’s in the eighties.
The songs featured a bold, rollicking piano style that tasted equally of jazz and barrelhouse, lyrics that managed to be both cheery and withering at the same time, and a deadly rhythm section that kept the foot tapping while the mind reeled. Radio listeners were treated to satiric singles such as Underground, Song for the Dumped, One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces, and their biggest hit, Brick, a dour rumination on love and life gone sadly wrong.
In 2000, having already released one project on his own, 1998’s Fear of Pop, Volume I, Folds parted company with the Five, and began a solo career. 2001’s Rockin’ the Suburbs was a triumph, proving he can indeed hold the spotlight by himself. In order to keep the fans revved up, Folds released three consecutive EPs in 2004-2005 along with collaborating with William Shatner and a solo effort called Songs for Silverman. His most outrageous project? A slowed down ballad cover of Snoop Dogg’s Bitches Ain’t Shit. His next project (projected release date, early ’04) in EP form, as he recorded them. This has resulted in two five song EPs, with a third in the works, available only online. He also played in a side project with Ben Lee and BenKweller, called (of course) The Bens.