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CD Review: Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

Lonely Avenue (Nonesuch)

This collaboration between smarmy Brit writer Nick Hornby (who penned the lyrics) and smartass American piano man Ben Folds (who plays, sings, and wrote the music) seems like a perfect match. But the fit is almost too perfect at times. There's certainly more depth to these characters and sentiments than Folds would bring by himself, but too often Lonely Avenue comes off as one big smirk. The '70s-style coke-hangover ballad "Belinda" sounds exactly like you'd expect a '70s-style coke-hangover ballad written by Folds to sound. But the album sparkles thanks to its deft and ironic orchestral touch, like the busy-bee piano patter of "Doc Pomus," the wild prog-rock synths yoked to snot-punk lyricism in "Your Dogs," and the way "Saskia Hamilton" can't decide if it's wearing a skinny tie or a poodle-haired perm. In the final chorus of the flip "Levi Johnston's Blues," a busload of singers chimes in to co-sign the subject's redneck ethos, and everything feels right. Cummings

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