BEN FOLDS FIVE The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner (550 Music)

The last Ben Folds Five (they're a trio - that's the joke) album, "Whatever And Ever Amen", was terrific, sort of like 10cc with a sprinkling of street sass and an immaculate ear for melody (the chorus of "Song For The Dumped" ran, if I remember rightly "Give me my money back you bitch!"). "The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner" is - in a trend that seems to be becoming distressingly prevalent this year - not. It's dull, dull, dull. Melodies that don't haunt you, lyrics that have curdled from twisted humour and irony into bitterness, the kind of album where getting around to playing it a second time becomes a trial of will and endurance. Which is a shame.