Normally I hate Ben Folds and his smug bastard face. And believe me, I tried really hard to like him in the nineties, when he was huge with the college rock crowd, and all my friends loved him.
The problem is, what a lot of people see as a simple, warm, I’m-just-a-regular-guy style seems to me like just the opposite–a lowbrow rejection of sonic and lyrical experimentation in favor of pretentious high school jazz band piano doodlism, with no real hooks, childishly simplistic lyrics that feign depth while evoking nothing, and not even solid song structure (except to have the bass and drums drop out now and again while his voice hangs on a sad tired note and the piano tinkles).
And ecchhh, that voice. Seriously, close your eyes, listen to the Ben Folds Five, and tell me his music doesn’t remind you of Dave Matthews songs with extra gay piano.
However, what he lacks in songwriting panache he occasionally makes up for in raw skill, which you can tell every time he does a cover. I just heard his version of “In Between Days” by the Cure and heck, it’s actually pretty darn good.
Of course, if you’re going to cover Cure songs, you’ve got some pretty stiff competition. My favorite cover is the version of “Just Like Heaven” from Dinosaur Jr.’s first album. It blows even the Cure out of the water.