I wish this was a case of “second verse, same as the first” but the sad reality is I think there was a moment in time where the music of Ben Folds really impacted me, and that time is past. The music I experienced at the time still holds up and connects me to those moments in time, but Way to Normal feels like it trades too much on the nostalgia of past albums, and beyond a few key moments doesn’t hook with either its music or its lyrics.
As a musician Folds is a force: his percussive piano style is singular and signature on tracks like “Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head)” but despite hooking the ghost of Elton John’s classic there’s little to hang your hat on. Same with “Cologne” which aims for the heights of Folds’s best ballads but can’t hold a candle to them. The moments where it does work: “Effington” and the closer “Kylie From Connecticut” are fine, but nothing that causes me to rush back to the album.