Since I missed the boat on blogging about Lonely Avenue when it was released last year, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to finally, belatedly discuss it in this space thanks to a fortuitous Twitter posting from Mr. Folds this morning.
Ben just released the video for “A Working Day,” the album’s opening track and my favorite in the collection. (Close second: “Saskia Hamilton.”) Perhaps it’s because I, too, have had several guys (and gals) on the ‘Net (and on the phone — two just today) tell me I suck, thanks to my day job writing mostly about small towns and their accompanying small town bickering. Perhaps it’s because like the song’s protagonist, I also think that “everything I write is shit,” including this very blog post. Either way, I love this song if for no other reason than it’s an excellent tune to crank in the car. Rolling in my Nissan, listening to Ben Folds wax philosophic about his own inadequacies, I am nothing but the epitome of cool.
Anyway, the point is, this song makes me happy. And — as if it could happen any other way — its accompanying video makes me equally, if not even more so, ecstatic.
The energy and unadulterated joy behind this clip is contagious. I watched it twice before work this morning, and both viewings left me with a big, goofy grin on my face. I’ve been to a bunch of Ben Folds’s shows over the years and have gladly taken part in his a capella arrangements for songs like “Army” and “Not the Same.” But seeing it done for the first time with a new song — and wishing to God I could have been there to do it, too — is like witnessing Ben’s process for the first time. It’s at once cool and confounding — how on earth did he get it to sound so seamless? How long did he craft the arrangement by himself before trying it out on his audience/guinea pigs? It always works in the end, but the obvious preparation he put into this video in particular warrants new appreciation for his musical genius.
When I first heard Ben was collaborating with Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors, for this album, I was thrilled. It didn’t immediately occur to me that I would get the chance to hear these songs live if I went to see Ben solo — they lived so perfectly together as one entity on Lonely Avenue that I couldn’t picture them out on their own in the wild concert halls across the continent. Now, I’m ready and willing to jump right in, playing living instrument to Ben’s madcap conductor.
As the song says,
I’m a genius, really, I’m excellent
Better than them, I kick their asses
The next time Ben needs someone to participate in a viral video, he knows who to call.