Ben Folds Five

Electric Lounge, Sunday, February 11

It's soooooo crucial to have a favorite new band. In a world that's rife with undependable boys and fickle friends, a favorite new band is a rapturous new lover that simply can't let you down. The record always plays the same way, and the more time you spend with it, the closer you two get.

Ben Folds Five couldn't be a more perfect crush. The boys of BFF, three at various stages of 20, are reminiscent of the goofy, normal guys you ran with in college. The beautiful fantasy of this trio is that they don't watch Monday Night football, rather they make pop perfection, complete with three-part harmony story songs, and a rarely found but greatly appreciated musical astuteness. Oh, and better still, there's no guitar player in the band. Ben Folds is a piano man.

"Yeah, there's the Billy Joel camp," says Folds about the comparisons that invariably come up because he sits behind a baby grand. "There's the people who are convinced we're Jellyfish or Queen. Then, there's the Squeeze people who usually travel in the same boat as the Joe Jackson people. And then there's the whole other area, which is, like, Todd Rundgren."

Like a lot of artists who are accused of sounding too much like other you-know-whos, Folds only owns a couple of records by these supposed "influences." But the cadre is pretty limited when you're a kid looking for rock & roll piano mentors. So when did Folds decide he was allowed to play piano and be a rock dude?

"Rock dude? asks Folds. "I gave myself rock dude privileges when I was about 10. I loved Little Richard and Elton John when I was that age."

Aha! So how many Elton John Records do you have?

"Oh. A lot. All of them up until fat Elton."

But the cool police allow early Elton, don't they?

"Ab-so-lute-ly. And if they want to cuff you and take you downtown for that, then they're sadly misinformed."

Yes, my newest, truest love. And how I need you to save my life tonight. -- Mindy LaBernz