I first became fully aware of Ben Fold Five in March of 1998 through a compilation CD from the magazine CMJ New Music Monthly. Every month I would purchase a copy of the $5 magazine, each issue coming with a disc of new music to enjoy. With each monthly release, I would be treated to a plethora of new bands, many of whom I still love to this day. The track in this issue that caught my attention was an amazing live version of their song Smoke and from that day forward, I was a fan. Now, I had heard the Five prior to that, but for some reason it was this one version of the song that made me appreciate their talents and want to pursue every song they had released so far. Since then I have not only purchased every album The Five released, but have also followed Ben Folds Solo career, never tiring of his clever words and immense talent.
Although that song was the track that led me to become a fan of this band, it was today’s album that solidified that fandom, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.
Why This Album?
When this album came out I was working on finding a way out of my home town, fully realizing that, should I stay there, I would not be able to do much with my life save work at the grocery store. At the time I worked at a small shop in the local mall next to a Camelot Music store which I would visit every break I would get.
I had already been listening to Ben Fold Five for about a year at this point when I heard that a new album was to be released. This was to be The Five’s most ambitious yet and, if their previous albums were any indication, it would be incredible. Of course, I put my money down on a reservation and, in April of 1999, I received an album that would become one of my favorites still to this day.
Placing the album into my CD player, I pushed play and was greeted by the amazing piano work Folds is best know for. The first track discussed the topic of Narcolepsy and then, as each track progressed, it became apparent that this was a loose story about someone who, like me, was just trying to make it in life. This was someone who was trying to find love, to find acceptance and someone who wanted to bury their ‘redneck past’ in a pursuit to become greater than they thought they deserved to be.
Everything about the album spoke to me on levels I didn’t know existed. It was almost as if they had opened my head and took a look inside for inspiration. Combining lounge music with symphonies with pop rock and more, The Unauthorized Biography or Reinhold Messner is nothing short of magic that approaches some of the greatest works of classical music, all the while maintaining the band’s pop sensibilities. To me, this album is the band’s masterpiece and, while they have recorded music since, this was a bar they set for themselves that the group has never knocked down, having only briefly touched since. This is not to say that Ben himself has not scaled these heights in his solo career but, as a band, they set quite a lofty standard for themselves.
Mess: This is such a meaningful tune, one that we all have experienced at one time in our lives. Large or small,we have all made a mess of our lives we don’t think we can ever recover from. Somehow though, we usually find a way to make things right, even if it takes years to do so.
Lullabye: This is the final track and is such a fitting Coda to this album. Done as a soft reminder that no matter how bad things are, there is always time to sleep it off and start over the next day.
Of course, there is Army. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this tune as it is pretty iconic and damned good.
Ok, Where do I get it?
At the time of this writing you can grab a copy here for around $4 on CD or if you love Vinyl you can get one here for around $30. as always, there is Spotify. No matter how you listen to it, give it a go, I think you may become a fan too.
Late to the Game 4/2/19
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