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Ben Folds Five Return with 'Reinhold Messner'

New Album Takes it Name from Mysterious Reinhold Messner

February 18, 1999 12:00 AM ET

Only on a dare would someone read The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, but every disaffected hipster here and abroad may soon find himself listening to it. Provided the legal eagles behind the eccentric brain trust of Ben Folds Five can garner the proper clearances -- presumably with the nebulous Mr. Messner -- that will be the name of the trio's forthcoming album.

Set for release on April 27, the tentatively titled The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner will be the band's fourth album (including the odds-and-sods compilation Naked Baby Photos). According to manager Alan Wohlmark, the band will begin a tour to coincide with the record's release.

The new album will consist of eleven tracks, including "Narcolepsy," "Break Up at Food Court," "Magic," "Lullabye," "Mess," "Regrets" and "I Thought About the Army," the first single. Wohlmark says the album's sound will consist of a "wider array of instruments than [in] the past ... but still no guitars" -- a BF5 no-no. Guest musicians include Ken Mosher (baritone, alto sax) and Tom Maxwell (tenor saxophone) of the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Of course, the real question -- one that Ben Folds may have to answer more than "why is it Ben Folds Five if there are only three of you?" -- is "who the hell is Reinhold Messner?" Though Wohlmark was not at liberty to disclose his identity, it seems a certain climber who scaled Mount Everest without the aid of artificial oxygen twenty years ago is the claimant of the name.

The Austria-born Messner has devoted the last twelve years of his life to dismissing false information about the Yeti (a k a Abominable Snowman), ever since coming face-to-face with one in 1986. Through the years, the oft-considered-humanoid Abominable Snowman, like the Chewbacca-esque Sasquatch (a k a Big Foot) and Loch Ness Monster, have been subjects of scores of books, TV movies and documentaries, both aiming to corroborate and dispel their existence.

Last October, Messner came forth at the world's largest book fair in Frankfurt, Germany, and publicly stated the thousand or so Yeti bears that roam Nepal and Tibet are not missing links, but rather each is a "Tibetan bear, similar to a grizzly but with longer hair."

Whether or not this is the same Messner who may get name-dropped on the forthcoming BF5 album is pure speculation, but leave it to Folds to bring some obscure mountaineer into the hipster lexicon. We'd expect nothing less.

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