somehow in the transition period after the Rockin the Suburbs/Songs for Slverman era and now Ben Folds managed to create himself as solely a performer. no one could ever develop an argument against ben's ability to entertain the masses - he stands on his piano, plays with his toes, and conducts audiences in three part harmonies - who knows what he'll do next. when i saw him in des moines when he was touring with john mayer last year he finished off one angry dwarf by chucking his tripod stool at the keys for the final chord.
but it seems to me that his ability to entertain hasn't crossed over well into his LPs. he's gone from a great artist who happens to be an incredible entertainer to a great entertainer who doesn't consistently put out solid work with which to entertain.
that isn't to say that Way to Normal is awful, but it's really hard to take him seriously as a 42-year-old. his immaturity is really starting to bother me instead of make me laugh like it used to. songs like "bitch went nuts" (a detailed account of what his girlfriend did to wrong him) - and "effington" (a ballad incorporating extensive use of the word 'effing') just don't thrill me anymore. when he's on stage improvising tracks like these on stage they're hilarious, but in album form i can't help but wish there was a heavier theme behind some of his songs.
he does throw down a solid synth track in "free coffee" a catchy head-bopper in "you don't know me" - with regina spektor - and a thundering piano track in "hiroshima (b b b benny hit his head)". the album isn't a total bust, but overall it's a relatively weak record (much like the handful of EPs he's released since Songs for Silverman). he just comes across as ticked off.
however, i'll be thankful to know all of these songs when he starts performing them live soon. i'm beginning to feel like his only motivation in releasing new tracks is so that the crowd will know them when he entertains with them later. it's not a total bust, but i would've been much more pleased with a less-angry LP.
EDIT: upon further review, the pound-it-out piano tracks are super fun when driving and when cleaning my room. it's a productive album apparently, and i can't wait to see ben perform these.