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
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
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
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
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.