Ben Folds & Nick Hornby - Lonely Avenue
What happens when one of the UK's most beloved authors and a nerdy American maestro of piano-pop meet? Ah duh, they decide to make an album together!
Ben Folds (the maestro) and Nick Hornby (the beloved author) aren't as odd a match as they may seem. Folds is a musician with six albums under his belt and a passion for words and stories. Hornby is a novelist of many bestsellers (including About a Boy) who has a passion for music.
On paper, it's a collaboration as good as hot chips and tomato sauce. Hornby's insightful and witty words set to the soundtrack of Fold's hand-clappingly catchy pop music. Yep, it's a match made in musical and literary heaven, but can Lonely Avenue live up to its sky-high expectations?
The disc starts promisingly with catchy intro song "A Working Day," which plays as an insight into the criticism Hornby often receives as a writer. "Some guy on the net thinks I suck and he should know, he's got his own blog," Folds sings to hand claps and a staccato piano riff.
Things get a little more melancholy on track two, the soaring ballad "Picture Window". With a swelling string arrangement by Paul Buckmaster, orchestra conductor to the stars, (whose previous credits include David Bowie and Leonard Cohen) it doesn't fail to completely absorb the listener. In this song, Hornby tells us the story of a mother in the hospital on New Year's Eve with her sick son. "Picture Window" is a standout song and one that makes you want to press the repeat button when it's finished.
Unfortunately Lonely Avenue doesn't quite sustain the same compelling nature of the first two songs and trudges along rather clumsily. Tracks like "Levi Johnston's Blues" and "Belinda" are fantastically witty lyrically, but Folds fails to create the appropriate musical backup they need to shine. More disappointing are songs like "Practical Amanda" and "Password", which fall flat on both levels with dull melodies and uninteresting lyrics.
Things get a little bizarre on track ten, "Saskia Hamilton," a crazy stalker homage to the American poet of the same name. Hyperactive is the best way to describe the song, with its primal screams, opera voices, wild use of a synthesiser and grunge style guitars. Folds even employed one of the most famous young YouTubers in the world, Charlie McDonnel, to create an accompanying video just as berserk as the song.
Lonely Avenue certainly isn't a perfect album (actually far from it), but there area few redeemable moments to make it listenable. Among the filler sits some complete gems including "Picture Window", "From Above", the lead single featuring a cameo from Kate Miller-Heidke, and the glorious "Claire's Ninth".
These three tracks are enough proof that this collaboration works, just not flawlessly.
2.5 out of 5
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Articles Written by Sophie T
Reviews written by Sophie T
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