I grew up in a blended family—between my siblings and step-siblings, there were five teens and tweens that our parents had to wrangle together.
Finding something that seven people all agree on is a trial of Herculean proportions. To that end, Whatever and Ever Amen was a godsend in my family.
This record was the soundtrack to many a road trip. We bought the book with all of the sheet music. My sisters and I took turns at the keyboard learning various tunes (almost everyone learned how to play “Brick” and “Evaporated”). To this day, I can still play a few of the songs from muscle memory.
And it might just be the sentimentality talking, but this record is an absolute classic. Ben Folds is a master lyricist that spits venom and tosses wry jokes as readily as it makes you weep. From the vitriolic “Song for the Dumped” to the heartbreaking “Evaporated,” Whatever runs the gamut from almost every emotion in the human experience. Including how it feels to drive your girlfriend to get an abortion.
Folds’ emotive songwriting is aided by perfect performances from bandmates Darren Jessee (drums) and Robert Sledge (bass). Sledge’s fuzz bass was my platonic ideal for bass playing for a while.
Fifteen years later, the album still hits as hard as it did on my first listen. In fact, it might be heavier for the memories it holds. I still remember my step-sister waxing on the delivery of the word “see?” in “Evaporated.” I still remember listening to “Selfless, Cold, and Composed” while driving home from my girlfriend’s house imagining that I was sleeping in the backseat. I still remember laboring over the sheet music for “Missing the War.”
But even aside from the memories, this album is still memorable. A true masterpiece from one of the most understated indie bands of the 90s.