Benjamin Scott Folds, 12 September 1966, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. Singer-songwriter and pianist Folds rose to cult status as leader of the oddly named trio Ben Folds Five, one of the most appealing acts to emerge from the US alternative scene of the 90s. Also featuring bass player Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee, Ben Folds Five made their mark as a scintillating live act and purveyors of beautifully crafted power pop over the course of three excellent albums, most notably 1997s Whatever And Ever Amen, which featured the minor pop hits The Battle Of Who Could Care Less and Brick.
Shortly after the release of Ben Folds Fives third album, 1999s clumsily titled but endearingly charming The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner, the trio decided to go their separate ways. Folds had already indulged his talents in a side project during the bands heyday, collaborating with producer Caleb Southern as Fear Of Pop on a 1998 release. He began work in earnest on his solo debut proper, Rockin The Suburbs, which was released at the end of 2001. The album stayed close to the Ben Folds Five blueprint of piano-driven power pop and tender ballads, although pleasingly Folds played down his somewhat caustic collegiate wit, allowing a greater sense of humanity to shine through the songs. A terrific live album followed in 2002, cherry-picking the best of the Ben Folds Five catalogue with tracks from Rockin The Suburbs. Between 2003 and 2004 Folds completed a trio of stopgap EPs, Speed Graphic, Sunny 16 and Super D, featuring new material and a series of unlikely cover versions. He also worked with actor William Shatner, who had previously guested on the Fear Of Pop project, on his album Has Been.
Folds returned in 2005 with his second studio collection proper, Songs For Silverman. While still boasting some lovely melodies and impressive piano work, the album betrayed the signs of Folds growing domestic contentedness and a greater sincerity and maturity (Bastard, Landed and Gracie, in particular). Although lacking some of the spark and bloody-minded contrariness of his earlier work, this excellent album is destined to last.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.