Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Not the Same" / Ben Folds / Rockin' the Suburbs

Well, here I am with a repeat performer, as I reviewed The Ben Folds Five's "Army" back a ways. I promised myself no repeats unless they are in the pantheon, the Mount Olympus of the B.Mo performers. Mr. Folds most definitely qualifies (although technically, this is a Ben Folds solo song whereas "Army" was with his old band...but I digress).

So, "Rockin' the Subrubs" came out in 2001 and rather than relegating Folds into obscurity, actually made his career skyrocket. It's not often you see an artist leave a successful (even semi-successful) outfit and become biggger, but it happens (Timberlake, Stefani, etc.)

Out of a stong, strong CD, this is actually my favorite tune. I have a pretty vivid memory of this song from a trip to Chicago with my buddy Stephen and Merk (another memory from the same trip was recounted earlier). At one point, Stephen was driving, Merk and Stephen's boy were sleeping in the back, and we were somewhere in the endless cornfields of rural Indiana.

So this CD was playing, and as Stephen and I are huge Ben Folds geeks, we were both digging it. When this particular song came on, we both started singing right along, then we talked about how it was both of our favorite. Then we looked into each other's eyes, leaned a little closer, and...

Nah, not really. But we did play the song two or three more times in a row, singing at the top of our lungs each time. And neither Merk nor the tot woke up. A little memory, but a very happy one.

What I really like about this song is the subject matter. It's pretty much about the big , life changing moments in your life that effectively change it forever. The first line - "You took a tip, and climbed a tree / at Robert Sledge's party / And there you stayed / 'Till morning came / And you were not the same after that" was, according to Folds, inspired by a true story in whcih one of his buddies dropped acid, stayed in a tree all night, then came down and was a born again Christian ("You gave your life / To Jesus Christ"). He always tells this story live (you can hear it on the "Ben Folds Live" CD) and gets a good chuckle out of it. Later on, though, there's a line that goes "'Till someone died / On the waterslide / And you were not the same after that" that hits pretty close to home for your humble author, as I myself had a life-changing moment invoving a death on the water (and I'm not sure what Folds is alluding to here, but hey, we all bring our own experiences into art, don't we?).

Musically, it's a pretty serious sounding tune, broken up by a bright, cheery chorus. I LOVE the deep opening notes on the bottom end of the piano after those three drum beats. That 8th note mostly stays at the bottom of the song through its entirety. There's a nice part right before every chorus (first time is at 1:10) when there is a two note "Ahhh-ahhh" vocal in the background, which Folds makes sure the audience sings in his live shows (check :45 into this clip). My favorite part, though, is near the middle of the song when that background vocal comes in during the verse, instead of before the chorus. It's very subtle, but just so, so cool. It's from about 2:15 to 2:25, and it coincides with the "waterslide" lyric from above. It's hard to describe unless you're listening as you read, but...chills. Every time I hear it. Chills.

Sorry to screw you on the video clip again, but every clip I found was a live version from a cell phone with people singing all around (not that I do that during his concerts, you see *whistles, looks around room*). Plus, the album version is so much better than any live one I've heard.
Click it!


y'shua said...

Ben Folds is one of those musicians I've heard of, but never really listened to. I put Ben and John Mayer in the same category - in the school of Dave Matthews. They all seem to appeal to the college crowd with intelligent lyrics that you have to listen to go get, lots of sing-alongs and fanatic fans.

As I write this, I'm listening to "Not the Same" and "Army." I like "Same" but could . . . well, "Army" is getting better with the brass about two minutes in. Not bad.

B. Mo said...

Oh, J, you're killing me comparing ben Folds to John Mayer and Dave Matthews. Killin' me, dude.

I appreciate you at least downloading an giving them a listen.

Hard to do the metal horns/ headbanging to it, though

y'shua said...

And you, in your rail against my comparison, have furthered my resolve. I know that just like you there are two other camps (the Mayerites and the Matthewists) ready to draw and quarter me because I compared their man to Ben Folds.

I've listened to most of Suburbs and the first(?) BFF--see, I even know how the cool kids refer to him. Not bad. Not my kind of music, but I can't say he's shit.

I did try headbanging to it but since the timing was off, my wife thought I was having a seizure. Long story short, one ambulance ride and five hours in the ER trying to explain it was just my headphones, I have a clean bill of health again.

Dick0369 said...