Song of the Day #1,370: ‘Missing the War’ – Ben Folds Five

Best Albums of the 90s – #6
Whatever and Ever Amen – Ben Folds Five (1997)

Here is another of those wonderful sophomore albums I mentioned a week ago. Three of my top six fall into that category, which could be a coincidence or could be evidence of some universal musical truth the nature of which has thus far eluded me. Anyone want to take a stab at it?

While this is Ben Folds Five’s second album, I heard it right alongside their first. I discovered the band around the time this record was released and for some reason was so confident I’d love them that I bought both of their albums at once.

If memory serves, I sampled this album at a record store called Sound Warehouse, which later became a Blockbuster Music before being converted into a large drug store. At Sound Warehouse you could bring any CD up to a listening counter in the middle of the store and the clerks would use a razor blade to slip off the plastic sleeve and pop the CD into the player attached to your headphones.

You’d often have five or six people sitting alongside each other each listening (presumably) to completely different albums. Now we have 90-second preview snippets on iTunes. More convenient, certainly, but less rewarding. A community of people lost in their own music choices and largely ignoring each other is still a community.

I can’t really remember the specifics, but I believe I listened to three or four songs on Whatever and Ever Amen — including ‘Battle of Who Could Care Less‘ — and knew without question that I had discovered a new favorite band.

I walked out of the store with their entire discography (two albums at that point) and haven’t looked back since.

This album is a perfect showcase of the two sides of Ben Folds — the sentimental balladeer of ‘Brick’ and today’s SOTD, and the smart-ass “punk rock for sissies” keyboard mauler of ‘Song for the Dumped’ and ‘One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces.’ What’s amazing is that he does both equally well. This album contains moments of breath-taking artistry in service of both the profound and the silly.

Ben Folds Five would release only one more studio album after this one, but Folds himself went on to hatch a wonderful solo career. Still, I don’t know if he’s ever topped those first two records.

All is quiet, his tired eyes
See figures jotted down
And clothes all strown around the bedroom floor
Now nothing’s adding up and nothing’s making sense
She’s sleeping like a baby
She doesn’t know he wasn’t meant for this

I’m missing the war
I’m missing the war all night, missing the war
I’m missing the war

He drove home again
Pissed and beaten
It’s really no big deal
It happens all the time, it’s no big deal

I’m missing the war
I’m missing the war all night
Missing the war
I’m missing the war
Till beads of sunlight hit me in the morning

So much time, so little to say

Time may fly and dreams may die
The shaking voice that tells him “go”
Still thinks he might, he knows he won’t

I’m missing the war
Missing the war all night (missing the war)
I’m missing the war (missing the war)

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,370: ‘Missing the War’ – Ben Folds Five

  1. Dana says:

    Great story as to how you discovered Folds. I had a similar experience with Amy in California at a Hear Music store hearing Billy Pilgrim for the first time and knowing that this was an album I had to own. Of course, that was a one album discovery, while Folds is the gift that keeps on giving.

    And, speaking of gifts, you giving this album to me was one of the most rewarding gifts ever. Knowing my fondness for piano based artists like Joel and Elton, I suppose you must have known that this would be an instant hit with me. To this day, I remember distinctly first hearing “Fair” and becoming so captivated with the sound of this band.

    I can only assume that their debut album will be near if not on top of your 90’s list, and that high rank will be well deserved.

    As for the general greatness of second albums–I have two theories. One is that artists generally have already penned more than an album’s worth of songs when they make their debut record. So, the creative energy that had probably been bubbling up in the artist for years before geting a record deal spills over into the 2nd album. My second theory is that the rush for an artist of having some level of success from a first album, yet still being hungry enough to create at a high level, fuels the 2nd album effort.

    Anyway, that’s my thoughts on the 2nd album phenomenom for what it’s worth.

  2. Amy says:

    I’d second Dana’s theories for second album success, but add that perhaps the artist, having achieved a bit of success, might be more confident and that confidence also comes through.

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