Ben Folds Five: Whatever And Ever Amen
Whatever and Ever Amen came to alternative radio at a time when “grunge” was starting to lose it’s hold. The band features three musicians: a bass player, a drummer and a piano player (notice there’s no guitar player in that make up). The lead singer and songwriter was Ben Folds, the piano player. The album featured songs about dwarves, being dumped, people who think Rockford Files is cool, and…abortion. I will address each song in turn.
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
Lyrically, the song tells the tale of a dwarf who was harassed as a child and is dreaming about growing up to spite everybody he feels has wronged him. The song is delivered rapid fire with staccato phrasing. It highlights some of the faster tempo tracks for which Ben Folds has become known.
Song for the Dumped
As a slight contrast to the above song, these lyrics are delivered at two different interchanging rates. The verses are delivered at a slower, not full sentence at one time, pace…which leads abruptly into the choruses, delivered at a more forceful rate. Both verses tell the tale of a man who is dumped unceremoniously, once when the ex-girlfriend owes him money and a black t-shirt and another immediately after taking his girl out to dinner. The stories suggest humor, but in the moment those very same things on which those recently dumped would be focusing.
The Battle of Who Could Care Less
The Battle of Who Could Care Less delivers a story of a guy who finds it difficult to “blend in” with friends, waking up late, telling tales of ideas for plates commemorating General Apathy and Major Boredom, and endlessly defending Rockford Files. This is also the track from which the title of the album comes, as it is either the title or the lyrics General and Major Boredom are singing on the commemorative plates.
Holy Jeez, if there’s any justice in this world, this song will be played on oldies stations into the very distant future. This song hits like a ton of bricks (pardon the originally unintentional pun), telling a compelling story of a young couple grappling with the decision and aftermath of deciding to seek an abortion. By the way, the word abortion is never mentioned in the song.
In the 20 years since this song has been released, there are some stations which have made a decision to play this song every year at 6AM on the day after Christmas…the day and time announced in the song about when the couple have scheduled their trip to the clinic. He thinks inwardly about how cold it is outside, tells the tale of her mom and dad having gone down to Charlotte, and feeling alone even after having found someone.
While she is at her appointment, he buys her flowers with the money made by the funds earned from gifts being sold/returned. The “Brick” in the song is the description of how he feels she, which is giving him the sensation of drowning off the coast.
The tale ends after several weeks, when both parties have been holding in the ramifications of their decision, thinking nobody can tell, until the time when his parents ask what has been on his mind and he breaks down. The song ends with him driving out to her apartment, embracing her and grappling with the fact that even together they are alone. A stunning piece of word-smithy that gently tells the tale and encapsulates many of the emotions felt after coming to a decision they will remember forever.
In the 20 years since the release of the album, Ben Folds Five released two more albums, and Ben Folds went on to have a successful solo career. He has recorded tracks with novelist Nick Hornby, Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, and Pomplamoose. The band are currently on hiatus and last performed together in 2012.