COLLABORATORS: Lonely Avenue features the lyrics of novelist and music lover Nick Hornby (right) set to the music of rocker Ben Folds (left).

Lonely Avenue, by Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

On paper, the pairing of piano rocker Ben Folds with witty British literary maverick Nick Hornby sounds great. In his novel High Fidelity, Hornby turned to the subject of music, with successful results that balanced the acerbic and the heartfelt. Folds, meanwhile, has managed the neat trick of making the piano cool even to jaded postmoderns. His music bristles with wit, derision and sharp observational power.

Lonely Avenue sounds like a reality TV challenge: can Folds set Hornby's lyrics to music and sing them? It's a fascinating premise, but you can't help wondering how Jack Black, the short-fused record clerk in the film version of High Fidelity, would judge the results. To my ears, they're mixed.


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