"Like the best guitar heroes, Ben Folds, pianist and leader of a guitarless trio called the Ben Folds Five, commands and fuels his small, tightly wound ensemble with an authoritative, nearly virtuosic style. Folds, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, borrows from everywhere but lends new inspiration and insight to the instrument's possibilities--he's the Jimi Hendrix of the baby grand. His frenetic keypounding eclipses old-time styles from honky-tonk to Jerry Lee Lewis rag, and he outplinks megastars such as Elton John and Billy Joel while sifting them both through the mondo hammerings of classic pop-loving alternative keyboard bashers like Todd Rundgren and Squeeze's Jools Holland. To complement Folds-the-pianist's clean and bright ivory tinkerings, Folds-the-singer's clear and dynamic tenor swirls through Folds-the-songwriter's very capably crafted, sugary pop gems. "Philosophy" starts with a rolling Joel-like intro, slips into a Rundgrenish verse and chorus--complete with the perfect Beatlesque harmonies of bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee--and then breaks out in an overdriven piano quote from Gershwin in the climactic solo. "Underground" Sgt. Peppers us with faux theatrics and then plunges into a soul-gospel groove about the joys of the alternative rock scene. "Uncle Walter" is a character sketch Ray Davies wishes he wrote but couldn't; "Boxing" is an imagined confab between Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell that Tom Waits wishes he wrote but wouldn't. The rest of Ben Folds Five's debut achievement just does what any other timeless summer record should: it makes you feel sunny enough inside to last all through the year. --Roni Sarig"
Ben Folds Five - "Ben Folds Five"