Ben Folds fans will want to circle September 11th on their calendars. The same day the expatriate piano-man drops his solo debut, Rockin’ the Suburbs, will see an augmented reissue of his ex-outfit’s biggest record. Whatever and Ever Amen, originally released by the Ben Folds Five in 1997, is getting a fresh pressing replete with four rare gems, two from the ill-fated final BFF sessions. The album spawned the band’s biggest hit with the reflective ballad “Brick.”
Those two tracks, one penned and sung by bassist Robert Sledge (“Prince Charming”) and the other written by drummer Darren Jessee but sung by Folds (“Amelia Bright”), would theoretically have appeared on the BFF follow-up to 1999’s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. Before that could happen however, the threesome announced their break-up last October.
“They were rough mixes,” Folds says of the tunes. “But there’s something really cool about them. I’m into having the guys’ music be shown. If they’re gonna do their solo careers, it helps them out.”
“We got into a little bit of pre-production, but it was very uninspiring,” Folds says of the sessions for the trio’s doomed fourth disc. There just wasn’t a lot of fire there. I can’t speak for the other two guys, but I wasn’t excited about it at all.”
Both Jessee and Sledge are indeed presently assembling bands. Sledge has been touring with former Squirrel Nut Zipper Tom Maxwell and his band the Minor Drag.
The other two tracks tacked onto Amen are songs the group cut with producer Brendan O’Brien for the 1998 soundtrack to the amphibious flop Godzilla. While one (“Air”) made it onto that record, the other (“Theme From Dr. Pyser”) has only been previously available on the Australian import of Reinhold….
Even before splitting up his namesake outfit, Folds had relocated to Adelaide, Australia to set up shop with his wife. Earlier this year, he recorded Suburbs in Australia with producer Ben Grosse ( Fuel, Filter). The album focuses heavily on character sketches, with half of its twelve tracks featuring a proper name in the title (i.e. “Annie Waits,” “Zak & Sara”). Another track, “Carrying Cathy,” was originally intended to be a BFF song and had been demoed in the same preliminary sessions that yielded “Prince Charming” and “Amelia Bright.”
In advance of the release of Suburbs…, Folds with launch a brief club tour. He’ll also be playing New York’s CMJ Music Marathon in September.