Way to Normal is Ben Folds’s unofficial “divorce” album. After going through the difficult two-year dissolution of his marriage Folds wanted to have some fun and boy does he ever. Unfortunately it’s not an album that most people will get a kick out of listening to.
It’s filled with Folds’s usual offbeat humour but this time it’s completely off the mark. The songs seem to service the bad puns and potshots at his ex the opposite of Folds’s usual formula. To make matters worse with the humour of songs like “Mr. Yang” and “Effington” falling flat the attempts at sincerity (“Cologne”) don’t have the usual impact.
It’s difficult to understand exactly what happened to Folds here as he’s displayed strong songwriting chops in the past (see Ben Folds Five’s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner ). It’s as if no one in the studio had the guts to rein him in while he was recording every idea he had.
Way To Normal is more than a disappointment; it’s an unabashed mess. Using an album as breakup therapy has provided some stunning results for other artists (Marvin Gaye’s Here My Dear and Luke Doucet’s Broken are two examples) but Folds’s emotionally stunted approach will have you sympathizing with his ex more than cheering for his freedom.