Whatever and Ever Amen
Many years from now, Ben Folds Five’s Whatever and Ever Amen will be studied as a gauge of inter-personal dysfunction during the 1990s. Beyond its scientific value, the trio’s second album has considerable merit as a funny, frolicsome, and surprisingly touching song collection. Folds reinforces his reputation as an incurable wise-guy on such biting tunes as “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces,” “Song for the Dumped,” and “Battle of Who Could Care Less.” But there’s more here than cheeky lyrics set to careening keyboard melodies. There’s real angst behind the darkly droll tone of “Fair” and “Selfless, Cold and Composed.” The radio hit “Brick” is an exquisite slice of sorrow, made all the more poignant by its buoyant chorus. Musically, BFF manages to disguise zippy Broadway-style numbers (“Steven’s Last Night in Town”) and swirling jazz waltzes (“Smoke”) as indie-pop tunes, thanks to lean ‘n’ mean arrangements and an overall air of slacker nonchalance. When he wants to, Folds can apply himself with high seriousness to confessional ballads like “Missing the War” and “Evaporated.” Mostly, though, he uses Whatever and Ever Amen to dissect the quirks of the human heart with a surgeon’s skill and a satirist’s relish.