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Fear of Pop
Volume 1
label: epic 550 music
released: 11.17.98
our score: 2.5 out of 5.0

Be Not Afraid
by: bill aicher

Ben Folds has stainless steel balls. In fact, anyone who would release an album like this must. The fact that it is given to us by Ben Folds (of Ben Folds Five) is the major kick though. What do you think of when you hear that name? Piano rock? "Brick"? Well whatever you think of, it will never prepare you for this album.

Ben decided it was time to try something different. Maybe do a little side project where he could let his artistic side shine through. Over the last year he has been putting down tracks and ideas for this album, an album which has not received much attention by the media. The way Ben puts it, "Once you've sold a million records, you've earned the right to experiment self-indulgently at the expense of your record company... I guess I haven't earned that right yet... But they let me do it anyway and we all actually agree now that it wasn't a total waste of time." Here is a quick idea of what he did in that spare time, and what you can expect from the leader of "punk rock for sissies."

The album opens with the title track. "Fear of Pop" is a fairly hard-rocking song, with little vocals other than "fear of pop" yelled over and over incessantly by Ben himself. Most people think the song is annoying as hell, but after a few listens it begins to grow on you. "Kops" is a great play on 70s cop shows, with a great funk track laid over a car chase recording. The most notable track by far is "In Love" which features William Shatner (yes kids, Captain Kirk) on lead vocals, with Ben on backup. Other songs of interest include "Interlude," which although only 21 seconds long, is a perfect contrast to the rest of the album - an interlude if I have ever heard one. It has an older waltz sound with "1 - 2 - 3, 2 - 2 - 3" etc being sung over the top. "Avery M Powers Memorial Beltway" has an interesting bassline, with a repeated vocal sample stuck in every here and there. The other tracks on the cd visit this unconventional method of music production, varying slightly here and there.

I am truly at a loss to point out the main difference between this and Ben's earlier work, as there is basically no similarities. Ben went all out avante-garde style. The music is highly original, and the vocal styles are out there as well. Most of it is spoken word, with very little sung except for the parts by William Shatner (if you can call that singing). A lot of people will be put off by this music, so the title does fit well, as this will NEVER be pop. If you are in the mood to hear something totally different, check out this album.
Nov-1998


If you liked Fear of Pop...

Tracklist:
1. Fear of Pop
2. Kops
3. Slow Jam '98
4. Blink
5. In Love
6. Interlude
7. Avery M. Powers Memorial Beltway
8. I Paid My Money
9. Rubber Sled
10. Root to This
11. Still in Love