Listen to this track by guitarless, and seemingly numerically-challenged, indie-pop trio Ben Folds Five. It’s “Alice Childress” as taken from their 1995 debut record, the self-titled Ben Folds Five, an album that does without many indie-pop conventions of the time, yet is packed with ironic humour, punk energy, and in this tune in particular, a profound sense of pathos, too.
The song, and the album off of which it comes pulls from sources well established in 70s AM pop radio, from The Stranger-era Billy Joel, to ELO, to Joe Jackson. Yet, the band’s music, which is centered around Ben Folds’ sardonic lyrics and jazz-influenced piano, is infused with a sense of irony that undercuts the way it might be perceived on the first go-round as straight-ahead pop music. As such, the trio wasn’t exactly the darling of North American radio at the time this record was released, even if they had a strong grass roots appeal on college radio. Read more