Album review: Ben Folds Five, `Naked Baby Photos' (Caroline CAR 7554)

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Awash with irony, Ben Folds Five are show-tune songsmiths who've stumbled into the rock arena and are hoping that no-one notices their music lacks passion. A mop-up job featuring early recordings, studio jokes and live numbers recorded in front of improbably enthusiastic audiences - except for a concluding couple of Japanese performances offered to eerie silence - Naked Baby Photos is just like the group's previous albums, only thinner and weedier.

There are lots of songs ostensibly about people - six feature names in the title (seven if you count "Tom & Mary" as two, and eight if you include "Satan Is My Master", a heavy metal piss-take almost as lame as their Beasties parody "For Those Of Y'All Who Wear Fannie Packs"). But none of these characters are presented as anything but conceits, to be applauded politely for their presumed wit: there's no emotional involvement here, none of the poignancy that a Randy Newman might bring to them, nor the tart sardonicism of a Steely Dan. So what exactly are the Ben Folds Five for?

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