Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue (Nonesuch/Warner) CD Review

Who would have thought? Novelist Hornby writes a set of song-type narratives, which Folds set to music. The result is a set of smart, sometimes humorous, sometimes affecting portraits and situations.

As you might imagine, it’s somewhat geeky, almost sounding too clean and sweat-free. But it’s also smart music that recalls a raft of great American songwriters (Brian Wilson is an obvious influence), but more than anything, a very English songwriter in XTC’s Andy Partridge. Oh, and ELO and 10cc.

It’s all tastefully orchestrated and arranged, and there’s plenty of Folds’ staccato piano and the occasional cheesy synth, but the sound itself is lacking real depth and dynamic.

As well-written and crafted as Lonely Avenue is, it all seems somewhat clinical, and the cynical detachment of both the music and lyrics leaves me feeling uninvolved. GARY STEEL

Sound = 3/5

Music = 3/5

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