Boldly hacking his way through the muck-infested swamplands of post-Nirvana alternative rock, Ben Folds comes to save the day with an album of pure pop delights that provide a welcome alternative to "alternative." Despite the name, the Ben Folds Five is a trio consisting of Folds on piano and vocals, a bassist and a drummer. There are echoes of everything from vintage Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson to Hoboken-based popsters like the dB's and Freedy Johnston in the band's frothy compositions. And there are no guitars.Bassist Robert Sledge is on a one-man mission to bring back the fuzz-bass, utilizing the '60s bass technique to fill out the sound of the trio, and sometimes sounding more like a guitarist or keyboardist. Folds is an accomplished pianist, and has no qualms about giving the instrument the rock and roll spotlight that it's often denied. Ignore the knee-jerk Elton John comparisons. Folds may be equally influenced by show tunes and the Beatles, but WHATEVER rocks more convincingly than a gaggle of guitar-worshipping grunge puppies.