Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies – Gordon

Their first record, this is their finest. There’s a fine control to the goofy humour, and an insouciant energy that’s still just the bunch of talented crazies who stuffed themselves into the Speakers Corner box to play. So much fun! The sound is perfect, and the songs are impeccable. I first heard this in the art room at high school (thanks to Brian and Skippy), got my own copy post-haste (these days I own both CDN and US releases), and have I loved it ever since. Quite untouchable.

Barenaked Ladies – Maybe You Should Drive*

How to follow the strength of Gordon? Keep the signature sound and brilliant playing, but get a bit more serious (while maintaining the fun, not an easy feat). Each song is unique. It was also the record that had to happen. If they’d tried to remake Gordon, we wouldn’t have gotten to see this other side to the band, and they probably wouldn’t have been as successful as they became later. To me, this is solid gold. And paired with Gordon, it’s a one-two punch about which other bands can only dream.

Barenaked Ladies – Stunt**

Another excellent record, but this one has an edge to its pop sheen. The playing is still unimpeachable, the musical styles are still wide and varied, but there’s a darker element here, the playful comes packed with a punch. And that’s really odd, considering this was the record that truly introduced them to the world outside Canada and is a favourite among some fans. The hits are here, of course, but this record feels really tense. It’s like they’re doing this because they must, to get famous, not as much because it’s fun anymore. Still a good, hook-filled listen, for all that.

NB: I was a first day buyer of this CD in HMV at 333 Yonge in Toronto. The first however-many copies were autographed, and I got mine (see photo, below). My copy also has the two bonus tracks (the hilarious She’s On Time, and Long Way Back Home).

Barenaked Ladies – Maroon

I don’t tend to spin this one as much and, in fact, it’s about the point where I started to drift away from BNL. It’s no fault of the band’s, really, maybe I just grew out of it. No, that’s not right, I still perk up when I hear them, still love them, I just haven’t bought a new release of theirs since this one, 14 years ago, and when I do play them it tends to be the first four records. My tastes must just have shifted. Aw, I can’t hate on it, though. It still sounds like them and has the hits you know.

Barenaked Ladies – Everything To Everyone

I bought this for $2 in our local thrift shop in a fit of nostalgia. I wasn’t blown away, and I wasn’t diappointed in it either. It’s more catchy pop tunes that are very good. And, in fact, it is aptly titled, as they cover a lot of styles sure to appeal to someone somewhere. The spin I gave it for this blurb didn’t rekindle my passion for them, though, and there’s a part of me, the part that really wants to like this, that still finds that tough to write. Perhaps I need to spend more time with it. I’d be willing to do that.  NB: My copy has 3 acoustic tracks tacked onto the end, I don’t know if that’s the regular edition or not.

 

* Bought in Taranna with Mike on our 2014 jaunt.
** I’ve already reviewed the album previous to this, Born On A Pirate Ship (1996), here.

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Posted on January 7, 2015, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.

  1. What?! No review of the ‘Yellow tape’? Their cover of Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ was awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had the first album as did everyone else! What a great little well written pop ditty Be My Yoko Ono was….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I still have my copy of Gordon from 1992…I remember my high school playing “Grade 9” over the PA the first day of school in Sept 1993. This album just swept through the high school, engaging everyone. Great memories. So good!

    Maybe You Should Drive didn’t impress me as much as Gordon did, and hardly got any play. I won’t say it wasn’t good…just not as good. I don’t think I still have that CD.

    The other albums, Stunt, Born on a Pirate Ship and Maroon, I think the hubs pulled off Napster. They’re great, they have several hits, but really, I sort of drifted away from BNL around the mid 2000s.

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    • Haha that’s cool they played it over the PA. Afraid I have to disagree a bit, my thought is that the first three records are all great, part of a trilogy, you could say! And yup, it was around 2000 (Maroon) I drifted too…

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  4. Excellent write-up on BNL. I was fortunate to be introduced to the awesomeness of “Gordon” when it was released and saw them at a small (and much-missed) venue in New York, The Bottom Line, when they were still an opening act. I think I like the follow-up even more, but it’s a close race. They lost me for a while with “Born On A Pirate Ship,” and by the time they became huge I felt that their music had gotten too slick & polished. I still liked some songs and was thrilled to see them get so popular, but it wasn’t until “Barenaked Ladies Are Me/Men” that they won me back as a full-time fan. It’s not the same now without Ed & Steven both fronting the band but I think they’ve still got some great music ahead of them. Oh, and “Barenaked For The Holidays” has become a Christmas/Hanukkah standard in my house. It’s an overlooked gem.

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    • Thanks Rich! With trying to keep things brief, I’ve been wondering if I’m even saying anything at all! Haha. You’re lucky to have caught them when you did. For whom did they open, do you recall? I’m glad they hit a point where they won you back. I haven’t heard that Are Me/Men thing, I’ll have to look it up. I knew of the Christmas disc, haven’t heard it. I tend to have an aversion to Christmas music…

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      • I don’t remember who they opened for. Possibly Peter Himmelman, but I would have to look at my ticket stubs to be sure. If you’re not a fan of Christmas music then you should probably avoid their holiday album, but if any holiday album will win you over that’s likely the one.

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        • Heh heh I’m not actually a Scrooge, Rich! I just got burned out on Christmas music working a couple of years of Christmases in a kiosk in a mall. Right out in the hallway, nowhere to hide, and all those damn carols blasting away all day every day for weeks. Blah. I do have a great Wynton Marsalis holiday album that I can stand, because WYNTON. 🙂

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          • I know what you mean about over-exposure to holiday music. Between 1983 & 1988 I worked at three different record stores in the Staten Island Mall (I think I was the only person to ever work at all of them), as well as one holiday season in the Christmas tree department at Sears, so you can imagine how much Christmas music I was subjected to. Somehow I not only survived that aural torture but it actually helped increase my appreciation for GOOD holiday music. The Phil Spector Christmas album remains my all-time favorite, and functions well as a palate cleanser if you’re ever fed up with the usual yuletide suspects.

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            • Oh man, you got it worse than me! Although I never did enjoy all those years of Christmas carols at church, as a kid, either. But that was only once a week. I dunno, it just never appealed to me.

              I do have a couple of others that are OK, but I don’t even play them at the holidays! Harry Connick Jr. had a couple and I sure do like that guy’s music, and there were a couple growing up that were my Mom’s favourites that if they played today would only make me think of her playing them as we decorated the tree: Elvis’ Blue Christmas and Kenny Rogers Christmas. But even then, it’s only nostalgia.

              Heck I know even Bad Religion did a Christmas album last year (and ain’t that irony!) and I LOVE those guys but I couldn’t bring myself to buy it.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Oh and, of course, my lovely wife gave me the Blue Rodeo Christmas CD this year as a gift. She seems to be on a mission to get me Christmas music I can stand, every year! I wish her luck. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been clear that I stopped liking the band after Born on a Pirate Ship. The first record is a timeless, fun well performed classic.

    You need the live album! That’s the only other one I like. It has two hilarious hidden tracks like “Uncle Edwin” or something. Great CD!

    I like your use of pics.

    I like

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    • Mike, I had the exact same reaction after “Born On A Pirate Ship” but if you’re still open to listening to them, I highly recommend “Barenaked Ladies Are Me” and “Barenaked Ladies Are Men” as well as “Barenaked For The Holidays.” They won me over again big-time with those releases. The live album is very good but it didn’t live up to all the shows I saw them perform in NYC in the early- to mid-90s. Somewhere there must be a more definitive live document of their early career.

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    • I had the live album, at one point. It was fun! But, like so many others, I believe it was a victim of a purge…

      I’m glad you like the pics. And this post even has one I did myself (the autographed Stunt)!

      Also there’s a hanging sentence fragment there… “I like…” It’s like you just stopped typing. Are you trapped under something heavy and unable to move? Should we send help? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The original cover of Gordon is hideous. Burn it now!! When I got my first Powerbook a BNL song came imbedded on the hard drive as a Quiktime movie. Good song.

    I’ve always liked their music on the radio but haven’t listened to it very much outside of that. Pinch Me is an alt rock classic.

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    • Haha I always thought that cover suited it perfectly. Far better than the US one with just the rubber ball on it (yawn). The other cover captured their goofy well enough. Which song was in your Quicktime? It’s true, if all you heard of the band was what hit the radio, you’d think they were geniuses. Dig into the albums, though, and some of it in the later years is a bit of a stretch…

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      • The Old Apartment? Something to that effect.

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        • Of all the songs to choose to include! Hahahahaaa!

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          • Hmmm, why is that? Seemed fairly innocuous at the time.

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            • Well, if it was The Old Apartment, seeming innocuous is why it worked so well. Personally, I’d wager that it’s actually a fairly dark song. First up, let’s hear Page about it (from Wiki):

              “Steven Page has said that the song was partly inspired by “Back to the Old House” by The Smiths. While some have misinterpreted the lyrics to mean that the man in the song is stalking an ex-girlfriend and breaks into her apartment to terrorize her, Page has said that this is definitely not the case. The person in the song and his girlfriend are still together and happy, having “bought an old house on the Danforth” (Danforth Avenue in Toronto). However, he goes back to visit “the old apartment” “where we used to live,” and winds up breaking in to reminisce. Although recalling “broken glass,” the “crooked landing, crooked landlord,” and other disadvantages, he nonetheless feels nostalgia for “fading memories / blending into dull tableaux.””

              And that may well be true. But the genius of songs like these, from this band, is that that edge is still there and it also could well be the exact opposite. The man himself says mine is a misinterpretation, but think about this: He really IS breaking in to bother an ex. He admits “I know we don’t live here anymore.” But then “WE bought an old house on the Danforth” could possibly refer to him and another girl, since the next line is “SHE loves me and HER body keeps me warm.” But then he admits he’s “happy HERE,” and we’re right back to the creepy. Innocuous? MAYBE.

              Anyway, however catchy it is, it’s not exactly a light-hearted pop song from a band with aplethora of them from which to choose, so it just struck me as an odd choice, is all. It’s still a cool enough song, and good on them for getting mass release of their stuff like that!

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  7. I started tuning out around the time of Everything to Everyone because of that fucking song about chimpanzee postcards. You and I went out and I got that album at launch at A&B Sound (RIP). Deluxe edition and everything.

    I saw them in concert a few years ago and thought they were only okay, and then saw a Steven Page solo show and thought he was great. I also like his solo stuff and don’t care for new BNL tunes. I’ve picked sides. I’m fine with BNL still singing Page songs, but they should let Kevin Hearn do those and make them his own instead of Ed’s passable-but-boring Page impression.

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  8. Ed does almost all of Steven’s parts (and does a passable impression, but it’s not the real thing). Kevin Hearn gets a song or two, which sounds weird, but still preferable to me.

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  9. Great Enid video from Gordon too!
    One of those groups I like to see whenever they come to town, even without Page they still put on a great show

    Like

  10. I agree about the first two albums being a 1-2 punch – those are both still my favourites. I hadn’t seen the band live in years, but caught their symphony tour 2 years ago and it was really great! I admit, I think the band started to falter noticeably after Andy Creeggan left, following the 2nd album. But that’s just my opinion!

    Like

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