Barenaked Ladies

Reprise Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Ah, those wacky Barenaked guys. They try so hard to be hip, edgy, and quirky. From "You Can Be My Yoko Ono" through the Gen-X angst of "Jane" up to their breakout in America, "One Week", they've proven themselves at their best to be glib, funny, manic, pensive dispensers of clever rock and roll.

The problem is that it appears they've begun to read their own press. Maroon is interesting, to be sure. It has some good moments. But, ultimately, it's no my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Stunt; it's more uneven, with a couple of downright clunky moments.

Let's look at the good first. The musicianship is better - and Barenaked Ladies were never slouches there to begin with. The arrangements and melodic structure are tight and well executed, and vocalists Steven Page and Ed Robertson just keep getting better. Don Was' production adds a nice glitter and refinement without sacrificing BNL's occasionally rough edges.

Some of the songs are downright tasty, as well. My favorite by far is the current single, "Pinch Me", one of the cheeriest expressions of utter suburban angst and meaningless you ever wanted to wrap your ears around. "Too Little Too Late", "Never Do Anything", "Falling For The First Time", and the irresistibly catchy "Baby Seat" are all good tunes as well.

Then, however, there's the bad. "Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel", "Sell Sell Sell", and "Conventioneers" all suffer from the same problem - someone's trying to be cute, and, bluntly, it doesn't work. All three songs are done in odd styles that fail to convey the charm BNL is capable of, and are delivered in a flat, uninspired vocal. Much like a cheap rug, they just lie there, and their placement on the album pretty much guarantee they wreck any attempt at album-wide energy.

It seems to me that BNL is resting on their laurels. They knocked out half an album of decent songs, padded it with some bizarre stuff that Steven Page had lying around, and released it for a public that would go buy the latest album by "those 'One Week' dudes". It's not that Maroon is a bad CD. It's not. It's that it could have, should have, been much, much better.

Early in their career, BNL was often compared with fellow Canadian quirk-rockers Moxy Fruvous. The parallels remain - both released a CD this year that is so, so much less than it could have been.

Rating: B-

User Rating: A



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