You know the story about the boy who cried wolf? When the wolf finally attacked him, no one came to the rescue because they thought he was faking? Let’s flip that theory a little bit and apply it to humor. If you’re known for being the class clown, people are at the very least going to be taken aback when you decide that you’ve come to a time when you need to be serious. That’s what happened to singer/songwriter/pianist Ben Folds when he released “Songs for Silverman” a couple of years back. After a decade of delivering bratty humor and sarcasm (applied to very real feelings and emotions), Silverman was a bit of a left turn-and it was stone cold sober. Ben’s fans didn’t really know what to do with the album, and it was a bit of a disappointment. At the very least (for people like me) it took a really long time to get into.
So, the folks who loved “Silverman” are going to see “Way To Normal” (Folds’ third official solo album) as a regression. The people who were turned off by “Silverman”‘s pointed lack of humor are going to see it as a return to form. I’m not sure how I see it. Folds remains a ridiculously gifted storyteller and songwriter-certainly the only person who can deliver a tune with a Broadway-ready melody and follow it with a bit of snotty punk attitude. Even though some of his lyrics are unnecessarily vulgar in that “South Park” GROW UP ALREADY!! kind of way that high-minded folks (like I pretend to be sometimes) won’t appreciate, they’re all very real, even though they might be played for laughs. On this album, Folds hints at the reasons behind the dissolution of his third marriage, his lack of comfort with his celebrity, and on a song or two, is downright goofy for the sake of being goofy.