Ben Folds Five

The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner

  • 550 Music/Sony

First Ben Folds Five becomes one of the most unlikely success stories of the 1990s, pushing a sophisticated, piano-based sound during a decade of crushing guitars. Now, steering even further from conformity, the band's gone and made its most ambitious album yet. Loaded with complex chordal structures and unpredictable arrangements, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner promises a cool wave of fresh air amid a lot of the other clutter on the radio dial. Quirky? You bet. But that's part of the fun. After all, who else but Folds could start an album with a song about narcolepsy, and turn it into something absolutely riveting? The band matches that and then some on the lost-faith saga “Mess”, the magnificently arranged, expletive-laced “Army” and the Steely Dan-ish “Regrets.”

Kevin O'Hare