Barenaked Ladies - Barenaked Ladies Are Me

Barenaked Ladies
Barenaked Ladies Are Me

(Desperation/Nettwerk)

First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2006, Volume 13, #9

Written by John Metzger

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There always have been both campy and serious aspects to Barenaked Ladies’ music, and its material has fared best whenever these opposing concepts have remained in equilibrium. The problem the band increasingly has faced, however, is that the more it has striven for maturity, the more its clownish behavior has felt forced. Add to this the notions that its audience has begun to outgrow its oddball lyrics and goofy antics as well as that it has become fashionable to deride Barenaked Ladies for the same reasons that it once was beloved, and the makings for a full-scale implosion are in place. This is precisely what occurred when the ensemble issued its 2003 endeavor Everything to Everyone. Although the title of the set poked fun at the band’s marketing approach, and its contents weren’t substantively different from what had been successful in the past, the album largely was met with a general sense of apathy by critics and fans alike. With the release of Barenaked for the Holidays, the Canadian outfit opted to regroup by taking more control over its music, and in opening its latest outing Barenaked Ladies Are Me with the gentle, melancholy refrains of Adrift, the group further has signaled that it wants to be taken more seriously.

Although there remains a charmingly childish quality to some of Barenaked Ladies’ lyrics — the details of a foiled heist in Bank Job, for example, are divulged in a clever fashion, while the playful Bull in a China Shop is riddled with overused clichés (though that also is precisely the point of the song) — Barenaked Ladies Are Me, when taken in its entirety, finds the band sounding decidedly more relaxed as it delivers its pop-oriented refrains. On Wind It Up, the group recasts They Might Be Giants as a southern rock ensemble, and on Sound of Your Voice, it giddily merges Journey with Queen while also adding dashes of both Electric Light Orchestra and The Beach Boys.

As he hinted on Everything to Everyone’s Testing 1, 2, 3, Ed Robertson has grown tired of being pigeonholed as the guy who delivers the fast rapping, nonsensical fare, and not surprisingly, he ditched this aspect of his work completely on Barenaked Ladies Are Me. The problem, however, is that in the process of trying to move beyond its past, Barenaked Ladies has lost some of the factors that initially made its music unique. Too often, the band settles for subdued, run-of-the-mill songs in a folk-pop vein — Easy, Home, and Maybe You’re Right, among them — that are utterly indistinguishable from those of the countless other acts that are traversing the same terrain. It’s possible that, one day soon, Barenaked Ladies will find a way out of its downward spiral, but as Barenaked Ladies Are Me makes plain, turning itself into another generic alt-rock outfit isn’t the answer. starstar ½

Barenaked Ladies Are Me is available from Barnes & Noble.
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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2006 The Music Box