16 June 2010
"Ben Folds is writing songs at a time when nobody equates social change with music."
---Nick Hornby, Songbook (2002)
Writer (High Fidelity, About A Boy), screenwriter (An Education) and erst-while rock critic Nick Hornby has teamed up with singer-songwriter Ben Folds. On 28 September, Nonesuch Records will release Lonely Avenue on vinyl, CD and on-line, with music and vocals by Folds and lyrics by Hornby. According to the press release, the genesis of the project was a dinner between the two, which ultimately resulted in the formation of 12 tracks that make up the album.
Hornby first waxed wonderful about Folds - and in particular the Ben Folds Five tune "Smoke" - in his book 31 Songs (alternate title in the U.S.: Songbook):
"Ben Folds is, I think, a proper songwriter, although he doesn't seem to get much credit for it, possibly because rock critics are less impressed by sophisticated simplicity than by sub-Dylanesque obfuscation: his words wouldn't look so good written down, but he has range, an amused eye for lovestruck detail, and he makes jokes-but not in the choruses, crucially, because he knows that the best way to wreck a joke is to repeat it seven times in three minutes.
"'Smoke' is one of the cleverest, wisest songs about the slow death of a relationship that I know. Lots of people have assailed the thorny romantic topic of starting all over again, and the conclusion they usually come to is that it's going to be tough, but both practicable and desirable; the heartbreaking thing about Folds' song is that it manages to simultaneously convey both the narrator's desperation and the impossibility of a happy outcome."
While we wait for Lonely Avenue (which is also the name of a great Ray Charles song), let's revisit "Smoke," played by Ben Folds with the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra: