Lonely Avenue by Ben Folds & Nick Hornby
Lonely Avenue is a collaboration between Ben Folds and author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy etc). On the album, Hornby wrote the lyrics while Folds wrote/plays the music and “speaks the truth”*. The end result is the most inspired sounding Ben Folds in years. It’s kind of crazy how perfect some of these songs turned out. The best thing about Hornby’s writing is that it all basically sounds like it was written by Folds himself. It doesn’t sound like Ben is stepping outside of his realm at all on this. Hornby basically lobs a few fastballs over the heart of the plate and Ben hits it out of the park. Maybe it’s just good to collaborate with another accomplished artist every now and then, if nothing else to give a fresh ear to your music, to try and keep you from going astray. Probably what Weezer was trying to accomplish with that Lil’ Wayne collab.
The songs on this one are basically short narratives, not unexpected coming from a novelist, but also certainly not out of character for Ben Folds music (Fred Jones Part 2, Zak and Sara, Brick etc). The Obvious stand out is “Levi Johnston’s Blues”. The song is hilarious, harsh and sad all at once. Without a real political agenda the song really does a surprisingly effective job of making the listener empathize with a kid who found himself in a pretty life altering sitch. It’s specifically about Levi Johnston but really chronicles the loss of a kids youthful sense of invincibility. Also the chorus is one for the ages. It could be the bro anthem of the year.
“Picture Window” is a stunning track with the ‘prettiest’ chorus on the album. “You know what hope is. Hope is a bastard. Hope is a liar, a cheat and a tease. Hope comes near you, kick its back side. Got no place in days like these”.Ben infuses the lines with his trademark voice and just the right amount of soul/heartache. It’s a perfect song. “Doc Pomus” is a third standout. It tells the story of an aged jazz musician, features some of the fastest piano on the album, and gives off that introspective melancholic vibe that Ben always seems to be all about.
It’s not like Lonely ave is a perfect album. There are definitely some misses (Password and Saskia Hamilton among them). But all in all it’s nice to see that not all the musicians that I liked in high school now suck.
Quote credited to Alyssa Spiering*
Lonely Avenue: 4 out of 5