Barenaked Ladies- Maroon
Review by Jessica Brandt
Let's get this out in the open. Barenaked ladies = poppy. Not just pop (that's a term reserved for genuinely crappy bands) but certainly on their way there. No longer are they that special little band for the Canadaphile in all of us. They don't appeal just to the alienated dorky kids anymore. EVERYONE likes the Barenaked Ladies, and they sure know it.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think they suck, and I especially dn't think they suck just because "everyone else" likes them now. But it is really hard to be the same person when everything in your life has changed. When they made their first albums, Gordon and Maybe You Should Drive, they were not yet rock stars. They didn't play at the MTV awards shows and some of them probably lived at home. They were able to produce songs of longing, insecurity and alienation, like "Jane" and "Am I the Only One." They did the silliest songs that made sense, like "If I Had a Million Dollars" and "A." They also were able to evoke emotion with songs such as "Great Provider" and "Brian Wilson." But not anymore. Now, BNL is just sort of "there."
Maroon finds the guys being older, married, and with children (okay, so did Stunt, the previous album) and trying hard to falsely capture that real emotion they felt as they were living their songs. This album relies heavily on "hooks" and repetiveness. The sound is polished and almost boring, a far cry from their most earliest works which usually consisted of Ed and Steve playing around with guitars and recording equipment.
The first track, "Too Little Too Late" begins with a very repetive guitar riff which continues straight through. It's got that Sunkist commercial feeling to it. You will be singing along against your will. Next up comes "Never do Anything," which has the hook, but does include some BNL uniqueness-- fans have picked up on the line "how 'bout a mouth full of Chiclets?" and hurl them towards the stage at concerts, in addition to the traditional dry macaroni. This song breaks into a bit of a rocker, with hopes of Stephen Page rapping. There are hints, but nothing compared to Ed Robertson's word stylings of last summer's "One Week."
Track three is the first single, "Pinch Me" and it really sounds like a genuine BNL song. It brings back that feeling of being trapped in a small Canadian town, but it's not too serious, not too silly. Robertson lends his soothing, friendly voice to this one, and he does throw around some words pretty fast.
"Go Home" is really an "adult" love song, as is "Conventioneers." Both of these deal with this "real love" concept, rather than the kid stuff they were able to sing about in "Alternative Girlfriend" and "Life in a Nutshell." "Conventioneers" has a slow, Curtis Mayfield feeling to it, with Page singing. Of course, good ol' BNL throws in some silliness- like rhyming the phrase "travel Scrabble" and talking about hotel sandals. But the secret love lives of conventioneers really isn't something the traditional kiddie BNL fan would be able to relate to. At least, not when we were traditional kids.
"Sell Sell Sell" is a tale of a sad actor's life, much like the tale of the sad musician's life in "Boxed Set." Except this song tends to drag a bit. The next song, "Humour of the Situation," goes back to that poppy hook that is definite next-single material.
"Helicopter" is one of my favorites on the album, because it's a nice honest song about touring oversees as a band, trying to be tourists and musicians and longing to get home.
"Tonight's The Night I Fell Asleep At the Wheel" is the final track andbegins with a calliope sound. It's another nice, poignant song with the chorus "you're the last thing on my mind" which makes you realy think about what might happen if tonight were the night YOU fell askeep at the wheel...
The bonus track (on certain editions) is "Hidden Sun," a beautifully introspective song which sounds like its being sung by Kermit the Frog's nephew, Robin. Honest to God. Forgive me, reader, for not being familiar enough (read: obsessed) with BNL to know who is singing, but I am going to assume it's newly-charged keyboardist Kevin Hearn, who recently "kicked cancer's ass."
So anyway, BNL has grown up, changed, gotten a fancy producer and taken a bunch of publicity photos. The music has changed, and it is acually better and more refined. The lyrics still are good, but they don't pertain to me anymore. At least not the 18-year-old me. They haven't necessarily sold out, but really just grown up.
Buy Maroon at Amazon.com!