A few years ago, major labels would have shied away from anything that didn’t smack of a Top 40 hit. Why invest hard-earned cash in some experimental effort when you’re mining for the next Celine Dion pot of gold? Could it be that we’re entering the age of artistic freedom? Or could it be that Ben Folds -- yes, of the popbeast trio Ben Folds Five -- has an anomalous and fortunate clause in his contract with his record company. Either way, Folds now enters the experimental realm with Fear of Pop, his spoken word, spazz-funk alter ego. Volume 1 features the familiar Folds old guard -- Caleb Southern and John Mark Painter -- and adds the talents of one William Shatner, formerly known for his Star Trek glory and sorry, best-forgotten attempts at dramatic Beatles covers. Volume 1 is a concept album with a kitschy, TV-theme vibe and a classic rock blandness that’s occasionally interrupted by driving guitar progressions and funky soul rhythms. This is Ben Folds’ admitted attempt at escaping the three-minute, pop songwriting formula his record company and fans so love. Those fans’ll be left with quizzical, raised eyebrows upon realizing that the tune here called “Kops” is a close descendent of the forgotten “Starsky and Hutch” theme or that “Interlude,” with its ’60s sci-fi sound, would get more airplay in an old episode of “Lost in Space.” “In Love” and “Still in Love” suggest that William Shatner secretly wishes he could be Serge Gainsbourg, but fails to seduce the listener into little more than disbelief. The promises of the title track, “Fear of Pop,” a swaggering, hard-driving funky guitar effort, are never borne out in what is at best an incoherent, spastic album. Luckily for Ben, he still hasn’t packed in his piano and doesn’t fear Ben Folds Five pop.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.