Racking Up Plays: “Draw a Crowd” by Ben Folds Five

Ben Folds Five. Yes, there's still just three of them. (via pledgemusic.com)

These are the posts where I gush about some song that I’ve got a huge crush on at the moment, and you put up with it and listen because you’re a good friend.

“Draw a Crowd,” Ben Folds Five

If you were wondering whether the recently reunited Ben Folds Five had grown more sophisticated, adult and maybe a bit dull in the 13 years since the band’s last album, consider these 11 words: “If you can’t draw a crowd, draw dicks on the wall.” They constitute the chorus to the sixth track from the trio’s new album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, and they probably represent a regression in maturity to somewhere beyond “Give me my money back, you bitch.” When I first read about the existence of this song, I think I literally let out an exasperated sigh: “We fans have waited, patiently, since 1999 for a new Ben Folds Five album, and you guys give us dick jokes?” My expectations for the album deflated in a cold shower of disappointment.

Ah, but once I actually heard the track, I was right back in my freshman dorm room circa 1997, jamming some punk rock for sissies. There was that undeniable piano groove with the syncopated accents. There were Robert Sledge and Darren Jessee belting out diminished harmonies. There was that glorious fuzzed-out bass tone that only Sledge seems to know how to generate. And it has a melody so strong that even self-respecting 30-somethings will find themselves walking down the street, singing to themselves about defacing property with penis drawings.

In addition to the sophomoric hook, Folds does offer some memorably strange, humorous imagery: “So smooth you can hear the beard” and “I only wanted to be Stevie Wonder, but I got to settle for this vanilla thunder,” for example. But mostly, this is a song for marveling at the talent of three musicians who can take something that should be irritatingly juvenile and wrap it up in such an appealing package that you can’t help but be impressed. It is truly a musical dick-in-a-box.


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