Song of the Day #3,387: ‘Army’ – Ben Folds Five

I had a harder time than I expected making a pick for Day 24 of the 30 Day Music Challenge, which asks for ‘A Song By a Band/Group You Wish Were Still Together.’

For one thing, most of my favorite artists turn out to be soloists. And the bands are either still together or past the point of getting back together. I don’t see The Beatles, for example, as eligible for this category because two of them are dead. I don’t think my wishing they were back together extends to wishing people back to life.

Another thought was Vampire Weekend, who recently suffered the loss of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij to a solo career. But the band is still together (and still collaborating with Batmanglij).

I was almost settled on R.E.M., who first dealt with the departure of drummer Bill Berry before officially breaking up 14 years and five so-so records later. But I used R.E.M. for my first 30 Day Music Challenge entry and I’ve vowed not to repeat an artist throughout.

So that brings me to Ben Folds Five, one of my favorite bands, who broke up in 2000. They did reunite in 2011 to record a new album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, but have since gone on hiatus again while Folds focuses on his solo career. I love the chemistry these guys have, and as much as I love Folds’ work outside of the band, I maintain that his best work was with them.

Well I thought about the army
Dad said, “Son, you’re fuckin’ high”
And I thought, yeah there’s a first for everything
So I took my old man’s advice

Three sad semesters
It was only 15 grand spent in bed
I thought about the army
I dropped out and joined a band instead

Grew a mustache and a mullet
Got a job at Chick-Fil-A
Citing artistic differences
The band broke up in May

And in June reformed without me
And they’d got a different name
I nuked another grandma’s apple pie
And hung my head in shame, oh

I’ve been thinkin’ a lot today
I’ve been thinkin’ a lot today
Oh, I think I’ll write a screenplay
Oh, I think I’ll take it to L A
Oh, I think I’ll get it done yesterday, ah, shit

In this time of introspection
On the eve of my election
I say to my reflection
God please spare me more rejection

Cause my peers they criticize me
And my ex-wives all despise me
Try to put it all behind me
But my redneck past is nipping at my heels

I’ve been thinking a lot today
I’ve been thinking a lot today
I’ve been thinking a lot today
I thought about the army

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,387: ‘Army’ – Ben Folds Five

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    My first thought on this was The Beatles, but I agree they wouldn’t satisfy the category. They would have, of course, if it were “Bands you wish had never broken up.”

    I’m not all that bothered by the Ben Folds Five breakup because I really feel Folds was always the driving force behind BFF and much of his solo work is cut from the same cloth as BFF releases.

    My pick goes is a slightly different direction with Talking Heads. Now, admittedly, Byrne, like Folds, was arguably the driving force behind that band and, like Folds, Byrne has put out some fine solo work. However, for me, the best stuff from Byrne came when he was with Talking Heads and his post-band work has seemed less accessible. My guess is that if Talking Heads reunited, the band would infuse a nice commercial sensibility to counterbalance Byrne’s more eclectic tendencies. So here is a clip from the wonderful live concert during the Stop Making Sense tour, which was put out as a movie and live album. Every song from this concert, in my opinion, sounds better than the original studio recording.

  2. Maddie says:

    Okay, you guys… let’s get real here:

  3. Amy says:

    I, too, am stumped by this one. Without being able to bring favorite artists back to life in order to have a new recording from The Beatles or The Traveling Wilburys, I don’t know that I’d care to have any band reform. Like Clay, I’m not much of a band person, it seems. The exception to that would be the Counting Crows. Even though they have lost some members and gained others throughout their 26 years performing, they have somehow remained a cohesive band, one that is most known for their tours and live performances. When we saw them during their Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus and Medicine Show, I realized more than ever before just how much they love being a band. So I’m bending the category and choosing the band I most hope never disbands and will provide a song they did during that tour, where they would perform alongside Michael Franti and Augustana, all of them sharing the stage and singing each other’s songs. It was a live show unlike any other I’ve ever attended. It was the first time I’d ever heard of Michael Franti and it was instant love. Here they are covering Van Morrison’s “Caravan,” a dong the band covered from its inception, which clearly captured the mood they were going for on this tour.

    • Amy says:

      I found the actual performance we saw – this was when I fell in love with Michael Franti. I remember wanting that guy to just pipe down and let Michael tell the story already. Instead of getting annoyed, Franti just engaged with him in the kindest way. This was the first time I had heard “Say Hey” and it became an immediate favorite.

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