Friday 24 February 2017

Music: Lonely Avenue by Ben Folds and Nick Hornby * * * *

John Meagher

John Meagher

Ben Folds and Nick Hornby
Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby's books are peppered with music references. High Fidelity celebrated pop snobbery, while his latest, Juliet Naked, revolves around an obsessed music fan and a reclusive singer-songwriter.

One of his non-fiction works, 31 Songs, finds him taking that number of favourite tunes and writing a short essay on each.

More recently, he was responsible for the fantastic soundtrack for that slight but enjoyable movie, An Education.

It can't be too surprising, then, that he has entered the world of song-writing proper, or, to be more accurate, he has contributed lyrics to a new batch of songs penned by US songwriter Ben Folds.

Hornby has long been a fan of the man behind The Ben Folds Five and, over dinner last year, the pair plotted this collaboration. Folds apparently had misgivings, but the end product will certainly appeal to fans of both men.

Over the course of 11 songs -- effectively vignettes examining a wide range of subjects -- the pair's strengths are revealed.

Folds certainly knows his way around a good tune and his willingness to dip into a myriad of genres is to be applauded. Hornby, meanwhile, has really relished his role as lyricist and he is in inspired form. In fact, his themes and word-craft make you aware about just how flimsy most lyrics -- even in otherwise fine songs -- can be.

A perfect synthesis of the pair's gifts is Levi Johnston's Blues, a darkly funny study of the young Alaskan who got the daughter of Sarah Palin pregnant, much to the horror of the Vice Presidential candidate.

Elsewhere, Doc Pomus offers an affectionate, warts-and-all appraisal of the late blues singer-songwriter. Incidentally, Pomus was also the subject of a tribute song, Doc's Blues, penned by the noir thriller writer Andrew Vachss.

Burn it: Levi Johnston's Blues; Doc Pomus

Irish Independent

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