This single comes from the first Ben Folds Five album in over a decade. I have been listening to the album recently and I can’t get over how much I love this single (which has long come and gone and made nary a dent on any chart). When I first watched this video a few months ago, I was so busy watching it (with the gang from Fraggle Rock and other guests) that I didn’t really digest the song. But man, it’s got everything, and I’m sad that it didn’t barnstorm the charts.
It’s one of Ben’s loud songs–where he bangs on the piano (a lot) and it’s got that awesome distorted bass that is so Ben Folds Five (the solo at around 4 minutes is great!–I mean, it’s no John Entwistle but it’s still great). And to hear Ben get really excited singing “Okaaaaaaay” by the third time around is infectious.
I don’t really understand why Fraggle Rock are in the video. It’s cute though (and Ben and the guests do a quick cover of the Fraggle Rock theme at the end). I imagine that having Fraggle Rock in your video might just limit its appeal to a young hip crowd, as well. But whatever, the song is fantastic.
[READ: January 20, 2013] ”Shirley Temple Three”
I tried to imagine what this title would mean–what could this possibly be about? My logical conclusion was that it had something to do with an indie rock band. Well, the accompanying drawing is off a small elephant-like creature. And, indeed, the story is about a miniature mammoth named Shirley Temple III.
Here’s the thing though. The story is ultimately about a relationship between a mother and her son. The son is a distant, jerky guy who doesn’t show up to a family wedding and who makes his living on an Atlanta-based reality show. The mother is a forgiving and loving woman who is God-fearing and hoping for the best for her boy–despite the choices he makes.
And yet, there’s the whole mammoth thing. The reality show that the son is the host of is a show that brings extinct animals back to life. There’s no science given to it but they usually resurrect two of the creatures (for TV) and destroy one of them…keeping the other in their extinction zoo. Totally weird premise, right? But again the story is more about the family than science fiction or even reality TV.
The plot transpires that the technician who created the mammoth couldn’t euthanize the second one, so the son brought it to his mother’s house (several states away) to avoid suspicion since what they are doing is against the law. She asks her to watch it for him until the heat is off. It’s a dwarf mammoth (no idea if such a thing existed) so it’s not going to get big. Then he goes away for a couple of months. She keeps it in the pen that used to house their dog Shirley Temple.
Despite the fact that the story is really about a mother and son, there is a lot of column space dedicated to the mother and the mammoth and how she doesn’t know what to do for it. Although she invites it in the house to watch itself when the mammoth episode airs (Shirley Temple III seems disinterested). When it starts to look unwell, she brings it in the house and puts the A/C on full blast. But who can she turn to for help? The vet?–that’s a funny scene) or the priest? It goes on to show just how hard the mother works to connect with this creature.
I’m torn about this story because I liked it, but it seems kind of wasteful to use such an intriguing premise as the resurrected mammoth on a story that could probably have been handled just as well with a rare dog or something. I also thought I wasn’t going to like it because it started out very strangely with a narrator I couldn’t quite get the hang of. The mother is called Mawmaw, and there’s this sorta dialectic: “Already he’s missed his cousin’s goshdern ceremony” which I disliked immediately. But that seemed to pass, or I got used to it and the fascinating story idea took over.