Song of the Day #3,973: ‘The Ascent of Stan’ – Ben Folds

My top four albums of 2001 are so good that I really could have presented them in any order. I settled on the lineup I did based on a quick dive into each album right here and now, so these rankings reflect my current mood as much as anything.

At #4 is Ben Folds’ first solo album, Rockin’ the Suburbs. Ben Folds Five had split up a year earlier following the release of their third studio album, and this record marked Folds’ shift into what would become a fascinating and successful solo career.

Of course, Folds was the lone songwriter on the vast majority of BFF songs, so it was no surprise that he had the chops to succeed as a solo artist. It was more a question of what direction he’d take without the propulsive and creative contributions of drummer Darren Jessee and bassist Robert Sledge.

On Rockin’ the Suburbs, the answer was that he wouldn’t stray too far from the band’s sound. This could easily be a Ben Folds Five album if you changed out the players. The introduction of an electric guitar on the title track is the only choice that runs counter to the Ben Folds Five aesthetic.

Here, Folds delivers a series of short vignettes about life’s losers. A woman stood up by a prospective boyfriend, a couple making a scene while shopping for guitars, a guy who trips on acid and winds up in a tree at a party, a laid off worker on his last day with the company that has already forgotten him. These sketches are often poignant, sometimes humorous, and always executed with Folds’ signature musical and lyrical dexterity.

I give a little more weight to Songs For Silverman and Lonely Avenue in my ranking of Folds’ solo work, but that should take nothing away from how excellent this album remains.

Pangs of silence
From the room upstairs
How’s the view there
Do you read what they’re saying about you
That you’re no fun
Since the war was won
In fact, you have become
All of the things you’ve always run from

The ascent of Stan
Textbook hippie man
Get rest while you can

So where’d the years go
All the time we had
Being poor was not such a drag in hindsight
And you wonder why your father was so resigned
Now you don’t wonder any more

The ascent of Stan
Textbook hippie man
Textbook hippie man
Get rest while you can

Stan, once you wanted revolution
Now you’re the institution
How’s it feel to be the man
It’s no fun to be the man

And now, watch it all go down

The ascent of Stan
Textbook hippie man
Stan
Textbook hippie man
Get rest while you can

Stan, once you wanted revolution
Now you’re the institution
How’s it feel to be the man
It’s no fun to be the man

One thought on “Song of the Day #3,973: ‘The Ascent of Stan’ – Ben Folds

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    It’s been far too long since I’ve heard this album cover to cover, but I agree it’s a great one.

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