Ben Folds

Way to Normal (Epic)

Phases & Stages

Ben Folds

Way to Normal (Epic)

Those displeased by the sensitive singer-songwriter pose Ben Folds slipped into with his first two solo discs are likely to find some joy in Way to Normal, a return to the snark-filled piano-bashing and redolent melodies of his yesteryear. Tunes such as the fluffy "Bitch Went Nuts," strident "Errant Dog," and Elton John rip "Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head)" are goofy like They Might Be Giants yet never quite edgy enough. Perky hooks distinguish "You Don't Know Me," featuring Regina Spektor, and in an emotional moment, "Cologne" is penetrating and dark. Folds has rightly earned the Joe Jackson, Billy Joel, piano-man comparisons, but Way to Normal also distances itself from that path. Fortunately, one senses Folds will never grow up all the way. (Ben Folds plays the 88s Saturday, Oct. 25, at Stubb's.)

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