Release Date: Sep 28, 2010
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
As with most pop-rockers tethered to the tinkly ivories, Ben Folds owes a sizable debt to rollicking revivalists like Elton John and Leon Russell (who, coincidentally, have teamed up for a duet album to be released next month). Undeniably, Folds’s assaultive, barroom key-hammering, featured prominently on early Ben Folds Five tracks such as “One Angry Dwarf,” sounds like the smarmy venting of a kid who taught himself to work through playground paranoia by burning down the mission, so to speak. Compositionally, however, Folds’s ethos has always veered much closer to “sensitive” singer-songwriters than to John’s spangled hit-making; updating the dense but sparkly treble/bass interplay of Carole King and Laura Nyro (as filtered through Todd Rundgren’s perverse tweaking of social niceties), Folds’s tune-smithing is a living handbook of four-note chord usage.
As the author of High Fidelity and a stack of other highly-regarded novels, not to mention a non-fiction book about popular music (31 Songs), Nick Hornby’s music-geek credentials are considerable. Power-pop piano player Ben Folds has been making albums for a good 15 years now, and his discography includes a wealth of collaborations. He’s brought in guests such as Cake’s John McCrea, Weird Al Yankovic, and Regina Spektor to do vocals on his albums.
The formula for Lonely Avenue was a simple one: author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) writes the lyrics and Ben Folds composes and performs the music. It’s a novel idea (seriously, the deluxe edition comes housed in a hardbound, 152-page book that features four of Hornby’s short stories and photographs by Guggenheim Fellow Joel Meyerowitz) that works more often than it doesn’t. For the most part, the majority of the songs on Lonely Avenue could have appeared on anything Folds has put out since going solo in 2001.
An affecting and intelligent record: the pair shouldn’t shy away from a sequel. Andrew Mueller 2010 In his 2002 book 31 Songs, a semi-autobiography testified through the prism his record collection, Nick Hornby remarked that he writes books because he can’t write songs. Lonely Avenue tests this characteristic self-deprecation, Hornby providing lyrics for music by Ben Folds (a Folds tune, Smoke, was among Hornby’s 31).