Hardlikealgebrarchive

The archive of the old hardlikealgebra.com

Whatever and Ever Amen

ben folds five whatever

I finally got my copy of the re-issue of the incredible Ben Folds Five album Whatever and Ever Amen the other day, after watching it rot on my Amazon Wish List for years. It’s so cheap now that it’s insulting, for such a great album to be bargain-binned out like this.

This album exists on a tape that was so beloved that even my good buddy Nate talks about it. One side had this album, the other had the Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good. I flipped that shit into the Ford Tempo so many times. I remember entire moves—from college to the “home” that was my mom’s new apartment, back again—where all I did was throw this in my old stereo and flip it over and over. I still don’t know the full lyrics to “Evaporated,” because the song always cut off during one of the “oh God, what have I doooone” lines. It always trips me up.

Whatever and Ever Amen also has “Brick,” the biggest Ben Folds song until “Landed” became an unlikely 2005 hit. I go back and forth about finding out the origins of lyrics to my favorite songs. One side of the coin is that knowing The Sunset Tree is heavily autobiographical makes it even more powerful of an album—the best of the Mountain Goats catalog, in my opinion. On the other hand, songs like “Brick” make me not want to compare the narrative to real life events; maybe I’m stupid and that’s why I didn’t know what he was getting at in the song, but really, I think it’s more that the song can mean a lot of things and I hate singing it and thinking of what it’s supposed to be about.

I remember that moment in 1997 when this album and this band was everywhere. It spread around campus so quickly, seemingly coming out of every dorm room that fall of my sophomore year of college. Musical theater majors would bring the house down by covering “Selfless, Cold, and Composed.” My closest friend would baffle me by being someone who listened to them when he was still in high school. I wonder if bands can do this anymore; are there albums that just blow up like that now, or is it all just singles and Gaga and BitTorrent on campuses now?

I’ll always love this one. “Kate” will forever make me laugh about using the words “cake” or “Nate” instead; “Battle of Who Could Care Less” will always be catchy as hell; and this will always, always be one of the best albums ever to sing along to in the car. And that needs to be the barometer for more good albums: driving away, wind in your hair, friends singing along, who the hell cares where we are driving?

***

One album a day says it better in three words: “plonky piano pleasure

Read part of a 1997 review of the album on my new “reviews from when they came out” tumblr

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SEVEN DAYS OF THE NEW MOUNTAIN GOATS ALBUM: DAYS SIX AND SEVEN

“1 Samuel 15:23,” the first track on the Life of the World to Come, exemplifies what we stand to lose in the age of digital music.

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SEVEN DAYS OF THE NEW MOUNTAIN GOATS ALBUM: DAYS 4 AND 5

Avoiding listening to anything else but this album has been one of the more fun/kinda silly conventions I’ve set up for this week.
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SEVEN DAYS OF THE NEW MOUNTAIN GOATS ALBUM: DAY 3

There’s a lot about home on The Life of the World to Come.

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SEVEN DAYS OF THE NEW MOUNTAIN GOATS ALBUM: DAY 2

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SOME BULLETS IN WHICH I FIRE OFF SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS HERE THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME BUSINESS

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SEVEN DAYS OF THE NEW MOUNTAIN GOATS ALBUM: DAY 1 (an intro of sorts)

Goats 2

So it’s not every day that your favorite band puts out a new album, and the real truth is that I am typically pretty on top of these things in the manner of anybody who grew up claiming that music changed his life and is now thirty-one and would still probably hold on to this fact.  So it was strange to the point of feeling disconcerting when I got the Insound newsletter today and it mentioned that yes, that crazy* bible-themed new Mountain Goats album, The Life of the World to Come, came out today.

Needless to say I have never been more on time as far as leaving for lunch break in my life.

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Things!

banksy-from-denial-land-flickr
banksy image via denial_land on flickr

Some things!

–In an attempt to have posts look uniform, I am going to try to have a photo and an eventual read more link in far more of my posts now. Whee!

(can you see how exciting this post’s gonna be?)(I bet you can’t wait for more!)
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Ellen and Ben

Sometimes I want to just start a tumblr that consists of screenshots of the terse descriptions that Pandora assigns to favorite bands.

Other times I just want to be the Dismemberment Plan.

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Not a Fighter

I really didn’t think I would end up posting anything about Michael Jackson, to be quite honest. I think as a midwestern boy growing up, he sort of represented in a human being all the cries of “Faggot!” that boys grow up with as well as scary city stuff, all wrapped up in a man who had two massive faces–the weirdo my mom would probably group in with David Bowie and a few others, and the genius that no one could escape.

He was one of those transcendent musicians who still trigger indiscriminate memories (seeing Alfonso pretend to be him on “Silver Spoons”) as well as memories that understandably seemed big enough at the time to still be rattling around in my 31-year-old brain (being envious yet fascinated when a classmate could dance like him; watching as my TV broke the scandal about “markings” a young boy could identify)(a story breaking, as I recall, at a time also scarred by the Magic Johnson announcement).

Is Michael Jackson what I hope to hear when I go to Soul Night? Of course. There’s no question that, now that the 80’s no longer seem so kitschy, his music still makes people put their drink down and get back to dancin’.

But really, I wanted to write a post simply because I read this over at Said the Gramophone, and it simultaneously showed the strength of that blog while also reminding me of the greatness of a man so wrapped up in so many things beyond “just” making shockingly good music. It’s a post worth sharing, and the demo of “Billie Jean” accompanying the piece will make you smile. I really hope you all will read it.

Silence comes from somewhere

Today has been quiet.
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