The key takeaway from the Ben Folds Five video on their Pledge Music site, is that you’ll have a chance to live forever. Promising immortality in the form or a mention or a place on LP artwork, in essence is the dream of any die-hard fan. Take it from me, it is as close as anyone can get to being a part of their band without actually being Robert Sledge, Darrin Jessee, or Ben Folds. Which I’ll admit sounds pretty dang awesome. I’ll also admit my longstanding love for Ben Folds (though we’ve drifted apart lately) and his music, which I’ve discussed in the past.
Upon learning that Ben Folds Five would get back together, I was skeptical, as a number of my favorite bands from the late 90’s (No Doubt returns in September!) were coming back to perform or record new albums and some (At The Drive-In) were blatant cash-ins banking on nostalgia. What would a BF5 tour or album sound like today, and how much would it be like the BF5 I listened to through high school and beyond? Would I want it to sound the same as it did back then? If you can’t do anything new, what is even the point of playing again? What, in essence, do you think you’re doing?
Through the video, the band attempts to answer these questions by declaring their lack of knowledge and understanding of what they’re doing in the studio. In 1994, the narrative goes, BF5 made music that wasn’t the trendy way of selling records, and now in 2012 they’re going it into the studio without a label, nobody knows what they’re doing right now in the music industry. That may be true, but seeing how the band made its target goal in about 13 hours, Ben Folds Five seems to know exactly what they’re doing. Funds over their target pledge begin to be diverted to charities, which makes this endeavor feel at least less like a cash grab, and much more like artists making music. Which is what I would like to hear my music sound like, perhaps a bit familiar.
“Do it Anyway” is a free download on the site, and it should scratch any Ben Folds Five itch a fan should have. Upbeat, dark, with a sunny side threatening to overtake the song a little too much. With tight harmonies and group vocals, the song stays grounded just long enough to scuff the polish. What’s more, the song sounds immediate and almost live in its recording, almost as if you’re there with them in the booth. That’s an affect that I’ve missed from Folds’ solo work the last few releases: the raw, mistake laden rough edges of a composed performance.* They manage to sound similar but not the same as where they parted ways. “Do it Anyway” could be an anthem of their decision to go it alone; it could be a declaration that they’re going to sound as exciting as they used to and still be relevant; it could be a tease to get people to spend money and drum up excitement. More than likely the song is all of these things, while also being catchy and fun. To pull this off Ben Folds Five would certainly have to know what they’re doing. I’m now confident they do, and I’m anxious to see what comes next.