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Barenaked Ladies Song Reviews


Gordon (1992)

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Gordon

Hello City B

A lonely piano and trumpet open this track, but soon enough their immediately distinct vocal harmonies come in and they start to sing a light 'n' snappy melody. If you put on the album expecting to hear something more raunchy from a band called “The Barenaked Ladies,” all you're going to find are likable guys who have a panache for novelty-pop. And you'll also find a nicely done, inoffensive bit of catchiness.

Enid A

Here their distinct sound is in full bloom. They pack on those funny vocal harmonies and the back-up instrumentation features a full horn section, which helps give the song a rollicking, swinging atmosphere. They bring us one of their finer melodies, which much like “Hello City” is light and poppy. The lyrics are even playful --- as someone who doesn't always care for lyrics, as a general rule, I find myself listening to these. It's a funny twist on the common lyrical theme of unrequited love. Clever!

Grade 9 A

They up the tempo quite a bit and deliver a very memorable melody. Definitely done with a novelty-pop mentality, this is almost a bit of theater. There's even a Mickey Mouse Club-style roll call in the middle of this. “First day of school, and I'm already failing.” I've been known to review an entire Bob Dylan album and not give much mention to the lyrics, and if I had any self-consciousness, I'd be embarrassed for mentioning them in great detail in a Barenaked Ladies album. But seriously, I'm have as much fun with these lyrics as The B-52s debut, which is really saying something. This is a hugely wonderful song. It's been 10 years since I was in Grade 9, and this song makes me remember those old times. (Lucky, nobody gave me a mean nickname.)

Brian Wilson A

Wow, these guys can even do ballads. OK, they eventually turn it into their signature cheeky style, but instead of going for the straight novelty-rock style, this is sweet and sentimental. The melody is wonderful, too ... I can't believe I'm hearing so many catchy melodies! It's not anything mind-blowing, but this is a snappy tune. Brian Wilson himself loved the song so much that, for awhile, he was performing this at his concerts. I'm trying to imagine how that made Steven Page feel the moment he heard that news... I probably would have vomited.

Be My Yoko Ono A-

Well it's clear these guys loved their classic rock. Here's a fond tribute to who's almost inarguably the most hated woman of rock 'n' roll. Though not a direct tribute ... it's about a guy who would give up everything just to be with his “Yoko Ono.” They're not changing their style at all for this song ... it's another upbeat, snappy song. But I like that style, and I feel like I can listen to it forever as long as it's always this fresh. That bit in the middle when they imitate Yoko's avant-guarde turkey gobble is probably the funniest moment of the album.

Wrap Your Arms Around Me B

This song has a good melody, which helps since this is a normal song by all means. Though the melody does have a few interesting turns that's definitely worth hearing. This is a long-drawn-out atmospheric song with some beautiful and professional vocal harmonies. As you'd expect, the guitars are plucking along giving texture. A jazzy horn is brought in at the end to add some more sound to the proceedings. Despite these praises, I do feel this song does have a few dead spots and, overall, it interferes with the great momentum this album had till now.

What a Good Boy A

This is more of what I wanted the previous song to be. This is a ballad, but it's actually uplifting! It starts out quietly and sweet, but they gradually up the dramatics to contain a great push to the end. I wish every ballad was like this!

The King of Bedside Manor B-

And here's another bit of novelty-pop! This isn't nearly as compelling as a few of their other ones. It's fast paced and goofy, but the instrumentals seem muddled and not nearly as crisp. The melody is good, but not too catchy. But it's fun, of course, and their delivery of the quote from Styx's “Mr. Roboto” is a real howler!

Box Set A-

I would usually complain when any band writes a generic bossa nova song... but these guys make the genre's tired old cliches sound fresh. It has to do with the crisp and clear instrumentals and Steven Page's starkly unconventional singing voice. ... Sometimes I don't like that voice very much, but it's this sort of thing where he shines the most. For some reason they stop everything and start with a quieter piano-jazz bit ... Why did they do that? It really ruined the flow. But that doesn't interfere with the fact that this is a fun song with more lyrics that are bound to produce belly laughs. This one chronicles the exploits of a typical rock star who's releasing his discography in a box set.

I Love You B

They're being very cute here, and also having more fun with general jazz cliches. Compared to the others this is scattershot and unfocused. It doesn't pack very much of a wallop. The lyrics are really cute, too. If you want proof that The Barenaked Ladies were a sweet band, this belongs in a PG-related romantic comedy: “I love you / you love me / I love you / So let's make a family tree.”

New Kid (On the Block) A-

“I'm 23 and they won't let me grow up.” Wow, these guys were definitely ones for unexpected tributes. I guess that's part of these guys' random charm! This is exactly the same sort of snappy song style that have produced the best songs from the album, and the gimmick is only barely growing thin. That piddly excursion they do in the middle was a lost opportunity for a cool instrumental solo ... as it stands, it's like a void.

Blame it on Me C+

Before it was New Kids on the Block, and now here's a nod to Milli Vanilli, of all bands. I like Milli Vanilli, though. They inadvertently exposed the Grammy Awards as the total sham that it is! ... I think this is a fine song, but it's rather boring to be honest. Professionally done, of course, but it sounds like they grew tired or something. There aren't too many interesting melodic ideas here, either.

The Flag C

Geez, this album has quite a saggy mid-section. There's a lonely sounding cello playing in the background, but there's no life in it. Up until its more than half-way done, the only other instrumental is the acoustic guitar, which is played the way you'd expect it to. There's merit to the melody, though... but this is boring. It gets better when a wavy percussion sound comes in, and he layers on the vocals. But that's too little, too late.

If I Had $1,000,000 A+

If you needed further proof that the previous two songs were boring, you needn't do anything else but listen to the song that came after them. One of their most instantly memorable melodies, and almost certainly the sweetest moment of their whole career. This is a very sentimental piece featuring the guys imagining what they would do with big bucks. The lyrics are whimsical and arguably the best of the whole album. Also this gets my vote for the highlight of the album. I run into enough albums with such sweeping highlights tucked away as the penultimate track, but this seems oddly fitting ... it definitely gives us something to look forward to.

Crazy B

This is OK but nothing phenomenal. A rapidly played acoustic guitar starts out and a rubbery bass guitar. A not-particularly-catchy melody pops up ... and I'm left feeling mildly entertained but hardly fascinated. It gets better at the end, though, when it metamorphoses into sort of a rock jam. They bring in plenty of weird instrumentals and sound effects... They were having fun with textures there. The end, they give us a fade-out of “Hello City” ... perhaps a nod to Paul McCartney's Band on the Run. Oh, and then there's a hidden track with about 30-seconds worth of outtakes.


Maybe You Should Drive (1994)

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Maybe You Should Drive

Jane A-

Ya know, this might not be like the fun, bouncy “Hello City” that opened their freshman album, but this is a mighty good ballad all the same. The melody is well-written and the chorus is lovely and soaring. The instrumentals were squeaky clean in their debut and you can expect the same sort of thing here. It's a nicely polished, professional and melodic song that's immediately likable. I usually think it's weird when groups open their albums with a ballad, but it's appropriate when it's a rather uplifting one.

Intermittently A

This is an interesting song ... just hearing how this develops proves that they've grown far from complacent. It's a three-minute song that starts out like a pompous Broadway show-stopper, but they take that in and out of a bossa nova section. In the middle, they even find some time to bring in a stomping tango section that I wish they would've done a bit more with! The transitions are almost uniformly excellent. This is very good songwriting, and the melodies are catchy, too.

These Apples B

This is a likable song with a formidable melody, but it's nothing especially memorable. It's barely even three minutes long, but I admit I get a bit tired of it after the first 30 seconds. There's a bit toward the end when they bring in some hillbilly banjos, which was a cool idea. Some of those light power chords at the end didn't seem quite right ... but give them credit, because they still have ideas!

You Will Be Waiting C+

This song is tasteful in every single way, but this is where the boringness really starts to set in. They had very fine melodic skills, but not enough to the point where they could make a great, serious song all the time. In fact, I don't find much difference between this and the ordinary adult-contemporary song except, of course, the lead singer sounds a bit like a Muppet. This is a serious song, and I'm just not entirely impressed by it.

A A

How's that for a confusing song-title/grade-rating. “A” marks a much-warranted return to their whimsical side, and it's also another example of their creative compositional abilities. It starts out with some cute lyrics that assign “A” to certain emotional characteristics. The music is upbeat and dazzling. We get some plucky guitars and pizzicato violins, a jumping woody bass-line and some spritey bongos to add to the atmosphere. There's even a funny instrumental discourse that reminds me a little bit of a Barry White-esque instrumental. It probably wasn't necessary, but it was creative, thick with its atmosphere and fun to follow. Their transitions are nearly seamless!

Everything Old is New Again A

This is almost a great song. I mean I was *this* close to assigning it an A+ rating. It starts out giving me a deep, bouncy bass line... and of course no song can go wrong if it has a deep and bouncy bass line! They have a nice vocal melody to go along with that, too. But then, there's this very very beautiful instrumental build-up with pianos, violins and jangly acoustic guitars. Subtly, they introduce some gorgeous trumpets, tubas and a marching-band-like drum-set. It almost ends like a John Philip Sousa song, or something, but they never give us anything other than the impression that it's a Barenaked Ladies creation. ...The problem is, this process ends up getting repeated three times with little changes. There's a minor discourse in the middle, but that didn't sound so good. ...Oh well, repetition and all, this is definitely deserving of that A.

Alternative Girlfriend B+

Wow. Do you know what? That riff reminds me a bit of the Friends theme song. Sorry. Had to bring that up. Besides that, this is a pretty fun, upbeat song. Nowhere near as creative as the previous song and I really don't like that choppy bit, but it has a few nice hooks in it, so it's a hit with me. These lyrics are OK, but looking at the song title, I would have expected something a bit more whimsical ... something that would make me smile. But it was true, these guys weren't in that business any longer.

Am I the Only One? C

Yeah, these guys weren't ones who could really sit down with an acoustic guitar and automatically deliver a great song. They bring in some very light violins a few times, but for the most part, it's just some guy with his acoustic guitar singing a song. This melody is strictly conventional, and the vocal hooks aren't that compelling. So... this is a boring song.

Little Tiny Song C

And I'm glad it's so short, too, because this is even more boring than the previous track. It's a bit of very serious sounding jazz piano. Maybe from Diana Krall this would be alright... but these guys are just boring. Yes, even though it only lasts a minute.

Life in a Nutshell B

Better because it's more upbeat. Though other than that, there's nothing particularly special about it ... other than the general fact that I like their unconventional style. The vocal melody is OK, but the instrumentation is too straitlaced. Come on, guys, this is another sign that you're getting too complacent. I want something a little nuttier out of a song called “Life in a Nutshell.” (There is one very brief moment in here with some scaling organ chords. It's only about three seconds long, but that's the sort of thing this song needed more of.)

The Wrong Man Was Convicted C+

This song has a nice chorus with a rolling bass-line and a theatric piano that I really like. The rest of it should've been chucked in the bin along with “Am I the Only One?” There's nothing compelling about any of that. A sparsely plucked guitar and no interesting melody to speak of. You could say what you want about the lyrics, but they're too pretentious for my taste. ...Of course, this song still sounds fine. I only don't care for it when I'm paying attention to it.

The Great Provider B

This would have probably made a good Sarah McLachlan song. It just goes to show what sort of sophistication these guys were hoping to live up to. Well, I like the song, of course. It has a nice beat, and the melody works fine. The instrumentation is very conventional throughout, although those moments where they bring in that instrumental upwelling was very good and probably should have been expanded on.


Born on a Pirate Ship (1996)

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Born on a Pirate Ship

Stomach Vs. Heart B-

This is OK, and it has a somewhat unusual structure, which I typically liked hearing from this band, because they had the charming tendency to do strange things but actually sound like they know what they're doing. But it's a scattershot song at best, and it seems more like an awkward exercise instead of inspired, which is disconcerting. ...But I'm still giving this song a B- because it's upbeat and enjoyable. It might be awkward, but they do deserve credit for not writing cookie cutter songs like so many other bands would be tempted to do at this point in their career.

Straw Hat and Dirty Old Hank A

Now why on earth didn't they open the album up with this? It starts out with a little bit of gypsy-style violin, and what ensues is a joyous upbeat song with a wonderfully catchy melody! The violins sound excellent here and, as icing on the cake, they give us a wailing harmonica in the background. It's a lot of fun, creative and good vintage Barenaked Ladies.

I Know B+

I like this song. It's nice to note these guys are still willing to be creative with their craft even if the flow might be nearly as smooth as their works generally have been. It starts out as an upbeat pop-rock tune with a thunderous drum part ... but that slows down a few time to give us a light, waltz-like bit with some excellent textures delivered by the xylophone (of all instruments). There's even a crazy bit in the middle that, I'm happy to report, has me baffled. They were picking some weird synthesizer sounds for that!

This is Where it Ends B-

It seems like this song should have been better considering I'm used to them being so consistent in the melody department. This is a straightforward song with ultra-polished instrumentation and no creative moments to speak of. But the melody seems utterly flat. It makes a good, inoffensive listen of course, but it's not likely to linger with you.

When I Fall C

This is actually boring. The only part that sounds like it's going to come out and do something is the orchestral upwelling in the chorus. The songwriting is average at best... Plenty of cut-rate CCM musicians compose music just like this, and as you might know they've been known to make some very stale music. Come on, guys ... you're the last people I want to sound this common!

I Live With it Every Day A-

Big redemption points here. And why is that? Because the rhythms are so varied and unusual, and they give us these hilarious sections contain a couple deep rubbery synthesizers going at it. I think if every song in the world had some sort of creative “gimmick” like that, which makes it stand out above everything else, we'd have a lot of great albums in this world! Also, the melody is very catchy. My major complaint about it is that part in the middle when they slow it down for a piano ballad. The piano ballad is boring, unfortunately. The rest of it is top-notch.

The Old Apartment C+

This alright, I guess. It's an upbeat song and the melody is fine. For some reason, it just doesn't take off for me. The hooks aren't that notable and the development seems awfully clunky. Even the ending is very lackluster. I listen to this, and I'm just not interested in it. Get the feeling they were going through the motions ... just composing the things they always do. The vocal performance is pretty spirited, though.

Call Me Calmly B

This song has some cool violin parts, which constitutes that gimmick that I was talking about previously. It's another one of their happy, upbeat songs, and those violin hits they put in here were just the ticket. ... Other than that, I'm not the biggest fan of this song. I think the melody is too weak and repetitive.

Break Your Heart C-

Have I mentioned that this is a spotty album? This is another one of their bad ideas to try writing a serious song with minimal instrumentals. The problem is that the melody isn't compelling whatsoever. It's so slow and boring ... and then they go and bring in these crazy violent bits. And then he screams his head off at one point ... Obviously they were being stone-faced serious about that. Geez.

Spider in My Room B

Give them credit for giving this a tribal-beat feel. I haven't heard them try that before, so it's refreshing to hear them try something new. This is was supposed to be a silly song, I guess, with a slight ounce of craziness. We hear some crazy chanting in the background and there's a jumpy drum beat. It's OK, but as long as they were going to do something like this, why not make it even more crazy? Also, why not put some more melodic instruments in the mix? You know, whistles or steel drums and stuff...

Same Thing C

I hope they never write these straightforward sentimental ballads again, because they really suck at it. You guys are much better off writing crazy stuff ... or at least writing stuff that engages your own imaginations. This has yet another boring melody, and relatively simple instrumentation. (There's a neat violin playing around in the background that I like hearing ... but it can't really save the overwhelming boringness radiating out of the melody.)

Just a Toy D

Just when you think they couldn't get more boring, they do something like this... The funny thing is, this isn't really a ballad. It's sort of strange. It starts out with a section of busy percussion, but it's droning on and on and on ... Making it worse, the melody is similarly droning and boring. There's no drive to this song, and there's no fun to it ... I would have thought this was a band that always strove to be fun, but ... no.

In the Drink B-

This is OK. They're singing a long-drawn-out melody with a single, bouncy acoustic guitar. It's not particularly entertaining, but it's not boring either. It's sort of nice to hear something out of the blue like that, which is what makes me give it a higher score. It's not good, but it's not bad.

Shoe Box B

Not a bad conclusion... They wisely decide to end it with something joyous and a little bit strange. It's not that special, though ... the melody doesn't do much for me, I'm afraid. While the instrumentation does a few odd things here and there (well, we have a xylophone and a strange “yeah-i-yeah” vocal refrain toward the end), but it still seems like they were going through the motions. This is a fine song, but it needed to be bolder.


Rock Spectacle (1996)

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Rock Spectacle

Brian Wilson A

The nice thing about live albums, I guess, is I get a first-hand account of which of their songs are the fan favorites. Obviously, this audience loves this song, because we can hear a significant portion of the audience singing along with them. ...That's reassuring since this is also one of my favorite BNL tunes ... so, I guess I have plenty in common with their fans! If you're expecting this to sound anything different than the studio cut, then you might be disappointed. The playing is a little bit more rollicking, and I guess that's something. I struggle to find a compelling reason for a non-fan to listen to this in addition to the original.

Straw Hat and Dirty Old Hank B

This is also done similarly to the original on Born on a Pirate Ship, but it's quite a bit sloppier. Though the drums are louder and it's well-adapted for the live setting, I think it loses much of the charm. Those gypsy-style violins (one of my favorite aspects of the original) is replaced with an accordion that's not nearly as interesting ... I almost think the song would have been better without it. And the singer goes too waaaay overboard this time, choosing to scream the lyrics. The song is still good, but it's nothing compared to the original.

Break Your Heart C-

One of the weakest songs of Born on a Pirate Ship, and it's in turn one of the worst additions of this live disc. I guess I hear some of the audience making noise during this but not nearly as much as “Brian Wilson.” Personally if I was at this concert, I would have been hoping that they would've just avoided boring stuff like this, but ... I guess that's why I'm not really a BNL fan! We do hear the audience cheering more when the singer does goes on that nonsensical, self-indulgent part in which he screams. But they would most likely scream louder if he mooned everybody, so big deal. Major blah.

Jane B

A nice one! I really liked the original, and now I'm wondering if I was overrating it a little bit, because I'm not quite getting the same “uplifted” experience that I reported in the original. Re-listening to that one, I probably did overrate it. But not by much. I feel this live version is less-crispy sounding, and it loses much of its edge. A good song is a good song, though, so there you go.

When I Fall C-

I really question their song selection ... why on earth they'd favor their Sarah-McLachlan-esque material over their Barenaked-Ladies-esque material is a source of eternal disappointment for me and for others I'm sure. I mean, they just gave us one of their ballads with “Jane,” so why are they now giving us a ballad that's clearly much, much lesser. I suppose the melody was well-written, but that's not good enough. I want something more ear-catching, emotionally touching and memorable. It's enough that you put these on your albums, but now you're torturing people in person with them....... (OK, I'm getting melodramatic there...... but that's what they get.)

Hello City B

Now this is more like it. The first song from Gordon, and that's all we've ever wanted from them. The audience is even much more excited to hear this, who seemed like they were about to fall asleep after the previous song (except for, of course, the polite pause at the end). Unlike most of these other songs, I think this is the slightest improvement from the original. You see, I didn't think the original was especially exciting. This version takes a similar stance except the drums are a bit louder, and we have an accordion player in the background. We're greatly missing the trumpet, but I guess they didn't have a trumpet player anymore. (There was a lost opportunity ... they could have expanded on that trumpet sound!)

What a Good Boy B+

Another Gordon song! I'm now thinking I probably overrated the original because listening to this version isn't extremely affecting. Part of it could be that the sound isn't as crisp and the singer tries to sound a bit too dramatic. But I like the melody, anyway... I don't find this as uplifting as I reported in the studio version.

The Old Apartment B-

The orchestration is much less elaborate than on the original, which fixed some of the developmental problems. But I still don't think this is such a wonderful song. The melody doesn't hold much interest, those guitar crunches are dull and I really don't care about what they're singing about.

Life, in a Nutshell C+

They give another decent performance of a good-natured though run-of-the-mill piece of back catalogue! Not impressed with this, but that's nothing new.

These Apples B

This bouncy melody was one of the more likable ones from their non-Gordon albums. The melody is simple and sweet, and so are the lyrics. They weren't much of live performers, it seems, because the original was much crispier and this remake is looser. Sometimes that's beneficial, but these guys definitely sound better when they're crisp. Like a good apple!

If I Had $1000000 B

They open this track up with a shockingly lackluster snippet of “Grade 9,” but it quickly turns into the name-song. You're probably well aware by now that “If I Had $1000000” is my favorite Barenaked Ladies song of all time. The good melody and its fantastic hooks doesn't diminish in this live version. It's strange that the studio version sounded much more fresh and spontaneous. They repeat the lyrics ver batum here, with the exception of some bizarre dialogue about a theater and fruit roll-ups. (If you hold onto the track after awhile, you'll learn that there's a back story to this... but it's so disinteresting that I won't bore you with it.)


Stunt (1998)

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Stunt

One Week A-

Hey, are you guys sure you wanted to do this? Didn't you have another ballad about breaking up with some girl that you were aching to write? No? ... Thank goodness. This is a fast-paced, bold song with a bright and catchy riff. Half of the time they're rapping, but it's clear they're Canadians and verrrrry white, so it's tolerable. I'll up the ante and say their rapping is classy and fun. The lyrics are nothing like Gordon, but at least the music style is back exactly where it should be. Even exhibiting more of their arrangement abilities, they intersperse this song with several quieter, more 'contemplative' bits. So it's not just a flashy song! Cool!

It's All Been Done A

Yes, it's all been done, but I liked it then and I like it now! This melody is really catchy... that combined with their typically bright and colorful style makes this just another wholly excellent contribution to their legacy. That chorus is especially joyous. There is a number of nice instrumental touches... such as that drunken organ groove we hear a few times. While fine as this song is, this isn't one of their more creative efforts ... although with a melody like this, there's not much more I can ask for.

Light Up My Room B+

A slower and more atmospheric piece for track #3. Playing it smart! It's very good, too... with some excellent, subtle textures they provide with a number of instrumentals. At the beginning we have a light though intricate drum pattern and some quiet spacey sound effects in the background. A lightly pounding organ sound comes up later on, giving it another interesting texture. More heavy guitars come in, but they're excellently mixed and come at just the right times. At the end, they bring almost a heavenly choir to it. This is a very good composition!

I'll Be That Girl B-

I could probably see where some listeners like might like this song more, because it's a bit more straightforward than the others. But I find the melody too predictable, and their proven level of creativity is at a minimum here. I like the texture of the song, though ... the guitars all seem to be playing some complex rhythms, and that dancey bass-line was well-conceived.

Leave B-

Tasteful, but that's not what we really care to hear from you guys. This is very standard songwriting. The melody is alright, but I can't help fighting the feeling that this is just a few notches above an America song. The one redeeming quality that keeps this over-the-edge are those whooshy electric guitar licks they have the decency to provide us occasionally.

Alcohol A+

Oh demon alcohol, sad memories I cannot recall... Don't you just love it when The Barenaked Ladies quit acting like boring countrymen-of-Martin-Short-and-Scott-Thompson and start delivering a good song? Right now, I can't think of anything more pleasant. This is a wholly upbeat song with plenty of creative touches throughout. This is an utter sugar rush of non-stop energy! One of the best parts about it is a squeaky synthesizer playing all around this thing, which is so wild and perfectly incorporated synthesizer that I want to drive it to Reno and marry it. Right now. Even better, the texture of it is changing all the time ... at one point seeming like they're having a “chugging” context. Everything flows well into each other giving more credence to their utter strengths in that department. It has a very cool ending, too.

Call and Answer A

Here's a nice song. It starts like it's going to be another Canadian-mediocre ballad, but then it gradually turns into some really interesting. It begins as a rather tuneful melody with minimal instrumentation... That intricate drum is also a wonderful thin in the early parts of the song. But, these background instrumentals slowly come in and more guitars start to play. It all builds up to the chorus, which sounds positively uplifting. They take a moment, in the middle, to deliver this slightly surreal bit with some quiet sound effects and a beautiful piano. By the end, the piano has taken a more central role and is sounding wonderful. For a six minute song that doesn't change its central melodic idea (although it definitely has staying power), this sure has me excited. That's what such innovative instrumental abilities will get you.

In the Car B+

Not quite as phenomenal as the last one, but this has its moments. I'm not so impressed with the development of this one, and the melody is a rather predictable one. Funny, that guitar riff and drum beat at the beginning reminds me vaguely of a surf-rock song, but once the singing starts that association leaves immediately. There are a number of good twists in the melody, but it's overall not particularly compelling.

Never is Enough B-

This really isn't that bad, but it's very bland ... the sort of thing I wish they would try their hardest to get away from. It's light, jumpy and as squeaky clean as suburban neighborhood, but there's nothing they offer in a mostly predictable melody apart from a minor deviation they give us in the middle. I like that wispy synthesizer they have going off in the background. It's like what they did in “Alcohol” except I don't want to marry it.

Who Needs Sleep? B-

Yeah, seriously. I stay up all night long writing these reviews, so that's my life motto. (But then I invariably conk out and sleep in.) This is a tad better than the previous tune, but this melody really needed an injection of steroids. The overall sound of the song is good, with a fun song structure and some goofy instrumental and vocal interplay.

Told You So B-

Here's another song that's an OK composition, but it doesn't do much to stand-out, but there's a certain quality in the chorus that I like ... like for one moment, more life is breathed in the thing and it manages to jump out at me. That's nice. I do wish this otherwise dull mid-tempo rocker with ordinary instrumentation would've been like that the whole time.

Some Fantastic C+

Hmmm... a lot of mediocrity down here in the album. This has a shuffley drum beat with a very quiet rubber synthesizer loop going off, which pretty much the only thing I like about it. (And both of these were elements already in other and better Ladies' songs.) This melody is just bland. That's my only real complaint yet it's a devastating one.

When You Dream B

I guess you'd probably assume this is the most sleep-inducing song of the album, and it almost is. It's a very quiet ballad with a bunch of dream-like sound effects and synthesizers going off all over the place. Yes, this is yawn-inducing indeed, but I'll give them its due credit for not sounding like anything else here. Plus, I think the melody is hookier than they have been over here on the final half of the album...


Maroon (2000)

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Maroon

Too Little Too Late B

I used to be more impressed with this song. It's an upbeat and bold song just like the sort of music they should open an album with. A well-used riff reminds me of The Stones' “Start Me Up.” It's all well-written and orchestrated, but the melody is awfully dull, and everything seems to repeat an awful lot. I like this crispy clean style of songwriting that they're capitalizing on, but I'm already getting the feeling that they're just going through the motions.

Never Do Anything A-

That texture at the beginning of this song is wonderful, and I wish they would have extrapolated a bit on that! Well, it was an introduction that captured my interest, at least. The rest of the song is another crispy clean bouncy thing. The melody leaves a little bit to be desired, but it's OK. This is a fun experience anyway. I especially like that bit in the middle where they seemed to have taken it to a cocktail party and they bring in a few other “uncouth” instrumental change-ups. This song flows very well!

Pinch Me B+

This is very well done. It's a minimalistic groove with a chorus consisting of their white-boy rapping leftover from the first track on Stunt. They seem like they're enjoying themselves in the studio there ... at least I'd assume there was some joy out of constructing that groove. And that reversed electric guitar solo in the fade-out is a lot of fun. The melody is dull, though, and they don't develop the harmonies very well.

Go Home A

A really upbeat, bouncy song! ...Yeah, most of Barenaked Ladies songs are like this, but this one is upbeat and bouncy especially. This is so uncannily indistinguishable from '60s sunshine group The Lovin' Spoonful that you'd wonder if they just copied one of their songs! ... Well, that ended up being a good decision, because the melody is so catchy and likable! It's less than three minutes long, and it's such a pleasant experience.

Falling For the First Time B

A lot like the previous song except it's definitely a product of the '90s. The melody doesn't interest me that much, but it's functional. I like the upbeat instrumentation. They manage to bring in a few quirky bits including an off-kilter piano solo and funny electric guitar peppering here and there... But they're so few and far between that I don't know why they didn't go all out with it. The end, for example, is extremely flooded with very predictable patterns. The song sounds nice, but it could have been more charming.

Conventioneers B

Going down a bossa nova mode now, this is another lighthearted song from them. I'm glad they're not writing boring ballads anymore although this ain't exactly exciting. The melody is dull as hell and the harmonies are even worse. But a few quirky beeps and rhythms they subtly add in deserves a Brownie point or two.

Sell, Sell, Sell A-

I used to be very impressed with this song, but I don't find anything particularly special about it. It has a pseudo-dramatic atmosphere that reminds me of Electric Light Orchestra's “The Way Life's Meant to Be.” The melody is probably more immediately likable than some of the others, but I think it repeats a little bit too much. (Though the theatric chorus in the middle with the wailing of “buy buy buy / sell sell sell / etc.” was a particularly memorable part.) The instrumentation is creative, but it's sometimes too busy, and it gets a little muddled in there. It's one of the album's highlights for sure, but it is flawed.

The Humour of the Situation B

This is a well-done song even though it's without any particularly interesting novelty that keeps it particularly distinguished from the others. The melody is good, but it's not any more inventive than any of these others. What strikes me most about it is the manic drive to it. I can imagine what this would have sounded like if the melody wasn't so bland! (That nutso 30-second coda is a lot of fun, though. They certainly sound more engaged than they did in those 1994 and 1996 albums. That's for sure.)

Baby Seat B

That drum beat reminds me of that '80s version of “Puttin' on the Ritz” that still gets so much radio play. Well, it's a simple beat but I guess it gets the job done. I like the echo sound it makes! This is another well-arranged song with an adequate melody. In fact, even with the drum, this is one of the more finely arranged moments on the album ... especially that chorus is very well done. Geez, the melody is so dull that it turns this into yet another unmemorable moment, but it's not tedious either.

Off the Hook B+

This song has a particular charm to it. Perhaps the melody strikes me as being better? (It's not that memorable, but it works.) Or maybe I just like its laid-back and passive pace. Or maybe it's just that simple loop we hear played by that electric organ. I don't know. What I do know is I like it!

Helicopters C+

I'll tell ya, these guys' mediocre melodies are trying to give me a slow death. This one's a little more mediocre than usual. I like it well enough as it starts, but they don't do much to make the melody more interesting. That bit at the end, they flood it with mishy-mashy sounds, which was a real misfire.

Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel / Hidden Sun C

A nine-minute suite. The first is a light waltz with a minimal array of instrumentation ... and unfortunately what they do have isn't interesting enough to keep the overall experience to be rather sleep inducing. But is it tasteful? Yes. And I listen to it without feeling squirmish. Just bored. The second half is even more boring... a ballad. It's a tad more twisted than those godawful ballads on Born on a Pirate Ship, so at least it has that going for it. I get the feeling they were trying to channel John Lennon, but they haven't quite gotten a hold of what makes John Lennon songs so engaging. (It's mojo, sonny.) Seriously, who wants to listen to some guy sing a non-melody with another guy playing the bongos and yet another guy piddling around with the piano in the background who has the expressed purpose of putting me to sleep?


Everything to Everyone (2003)

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Everything to Everyone

Celebrity A

Excellent! This is a rather warming tribute to celebrities, and what a catchy melody they wrote for it! The song doesn't sound different than what we're used to ... A piano-pop song with extra-polished vocals. They bring in some crunchy strings leading up to the chorus. The song development rings of the best of The Beach Boys. There are several different musical ideas in here that could conceivably be milked out to create good three-minute songs of their own, but these guys stuff them all into one three-minute song. That's why this is so excellent.

Maybe Katie A-

Wow, this is excellent, too. There's a weird introduction with some old vinyl record noises and a funny organ loop. That quickly turns into a brassy and bold mid-tempo song with a catchy melody and wonderfully mixed crunchy 'lectric guitar chords. Perhaps it's not as tuneful as the previous song, but it gains extra points for its level of verve.

Another Postcard A-

One of their goofy rap songs. They're playful and very white about it, which is the best way to approach this sort of thing. I used to hate it, but I'm not sure why. It's enjoyable, the groove is snappy and the chorus is catchy (albeit repeated too much by the end). I really like those beepy synthesizers that open the song! The development is good, too ... apart from the chorus being repeated too much at the end, they do an excellent job keeping the song sounding fresh throughout.

Next Time B+

I really like that timpani! Those subtle little bits of instrumentation used so well prove how much they were willing to work on this material, and it's for the better. Otherwise, this is a fairly average song ... and melodically quite a bit weaker than the three songs that precede it. That jazzy “explosion” at the two-minute mark is fantastic. Overall, this is yet another entertaining ditty!

For You B

Another good song, but the melody goes nowhere for me. It's not much better than some of those flat melodies on Born on a Pirate Ship. However, this is a great example of how instrumentation can save a tune. There's a great array of acoustic guitars all throughout this, all mixed excellently. ...And the real kicker is the banjo they introduce in the final third. It's all very soothing.

Shopping A

Now, this song is hilarious. A goofy, shimmering, off-beat tribute to shoppppppppppping. The sort of song you can let float around your mind the next time you're at the mall. (I hate shopping, so its cynical edge hits home for me.) This is also, yet, another catchy song and creative composition. It starts as a cheeky pop song with a very quick rhythm. The second part is quieter, and more dream-like. They seem unrelated, but really it's brilliant since it provides contrast and thus more depth. Why don't more composers understand this? Something like this would work well in a comedic film.

Testing 1,2,3 B

Oh no!!! What happened to their funny, quirky ideas? Where are the timpanis, crunchy strings, beepy syntehsizers??? This is just a normal pop-rock song without any of those funny ideas. The melody is OK, and I can't say I dislike the song much. I just don't particularly like it. It's too normal. For heaven's sake, I'd rather hear another rap song!!

Upside Down A-

That's more like it! It begins with a pseudo-dramatic string that reminds me of the old Nintendo Zelda theme song opening. That goes on for twenty seconds, and they give us another one of their signature, bracing upbeat tunes. The guitars are crunchy, and there's an accordion. I'm sold already! ...On the downside: While this is a joyous tune, it's a bit too muddled in spots.

War on Drugs B+

I don't want it to seem like I'm against normal songs, but I just don't know why The Barenaked Ladies would go in that route when they're destined for so much more! But as far as normal songs go, this is very good. The melody is quite good (but it does tend to run out of steam after its five+ minutes), and the instrumentation is polished and well-conceived. There's a huge dramatic push at the end, which makes it rather uplifting by the end.

Aluminum B+

I'd also classify this as a “normal song,” but it's an excellent one! The melody is nearly top-notch, and I do like the instrumentation. It's a well-mix of acoustic guitars, electric guitars and some atmospheric synthesizers. It's very bold.

Unfinished B+

It sounds finished to me. Back to the quirkiness, but it's not quite the funny experience as other songs from the album. It begins with some chopsticks-style piano. (There's a weird, tinny beep that comes in subtly ... it's those tiny ideas that can help make a song bolder.) Another wonderful melody here, with bouncy instrumentation. Some cut-and-paste editing was well-used here... that sudden transition to the flat violin build-up was sorta neat.

Second Best A-

I never get tired of these bouncy songs! This is almost a regular song, though. Just a tight piece of riff-rock that's hella fun to listen to. It's not the second best song of the album ... but it's not too far away from it.

Take it Outside B

Noooo! Stop writing songs like this! It's too dang normal! Not that it's an awful song, but this is mid-tempo and they play it as straight as possible ... so it's just not very distinctive. I can't think of anything else to say 'cos there's nothing else to say.

Have You Seen My Love? B-

Nope, I haven't. And for these past few songs, I haven't seen The Barenaked Ladies!! (OK, that's probably too severe ... but don't you see how attached I am to their quirky stuff?) Well, these serious, normal songs continue to be *not bad*, but it's just a non-distinctive closer. Instead of ending with a bang, they give us this forgettable ditty that can only be described as “well-written.”


Barenaked Ladies Are Me (2006)

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Barenaked Ladies Are Me

Adrift A-

What a sweet little song! They bring out all sorts of acoustic guitars for this (and a banjo, too) as they sing a very simple ballad. Of course it's nothing groundbreaking, but it's well-done. It sounds like a sunny day. I really like that ending, though. They spend about 30 seconds coming out with these light, windy synthesizers. It's nice that they're developing interesting endings instead of those cheap fade-outs.

Bank Job B

A little less lightweight than the previous song. It starts out quietly with a twinkly, mechanical synthesizer loop. After that, the song picks up dynamics and turns into something a little more conventional. It's pretty well done, though. The textures evolve quite a bit over the course of the song, which at least keeps it from growing dull. Where it loses points is the very flat melody. (The lyrics are about a bank robbery ... considering this is the second track, do you think they're Kate Bush fans?)

Sound of Your Voice B-

Those distinctive vocal harmonies from Gordon are back, and there's even a little bit of swing to this. It's a very sparkly and well-produced song. It's very professional. Perhaps too professional, because this is the sort of thing you would expect to hear them play in front of grandmas going to a lunch show in Branson. But I'm just complaining. This is nicely written.

Easy A-

Better. It's not more ambitious than the other songs, but it certainly has more momentum. A light and bouncy acoustic guitar keeps a light hearted rhythm, complimented wonderfully by a chugging drum line. The melody also manages to capture my interest, even though it starts to get stale after awhile. Those simple back-up vocals were a nice idea.

Home A-

This is another conventional ballad with a not-too-distinctive melody, but I gave it a few extra points for that Baroque-pop bit in the middle. It betrays me by only lasting a few seconds, but it was quite a pleasant diversion! The rest of the song is alright, though. It's another nice song that you can sit through and feel happy about. They bring in some wavy synthesizers at the end for a slightly monumental conclusion.

Bull in a China Shop A-

Hey, the Barenaked Ladies are rocking out for once! Here's an ultra-polished song just like they used to do except without the sense of humor. At least the instrumentals are snappy and sweet, and the melody is likewise. I still get the feeling that they should have tried expressing their creativity, but I can't deny that this is very catchy and enjoyable.

Everything Had Changed B

An accordion and a banjo? I like that idea! ...Well, even with those instruments, the song is strictly conventional. The melody isn't that interesting, and the overall feel of the song isn't too interesting. If you want to hear more of this sort of music, you needn't look further than The Tiger Lillies. They're a little bit like The Barenaked Ladies except they kept the personality.

Peterborough and the Kawarthas B-

Another well-written tune. (You realize that “well-written” means that it's a mild dismissal!) It's another lightweight song with enough interesting stuff happening to keep it interesting. The melody doesn't work that well, but all those twinkly things in the instrumentation and a well-composed drum line keep it nice.

Maybe You're Right B

Another very comfortable pop song. The instrumentation and overall texture is different than the other songs, but this still seems like formula. Too inoffensive ... too professional ... too “well-written.” Sure, it's mildly enjoyable and even somewhat catchy, and I'm just being a bit of a jerk. I like that loud chorus, which is an integral reason I don't find it boring. I also like that bombastic coda. But it just doesn't quite catch fire.

Take it Back B

I should make these track reviews shorter. OK, here we go. Well written! Upbeat! Twinkly piano! Very standard chorus! The end.

Vanishing B+

The mood is darker than the other songs, which is why I bumped up the rating a little bit. The instrumentation predominantly consists of a moody, distorted guitar. The overall song doesn't come off as too threatening, because its overall tone is sweet. Where it lacks merit is the forgettable melody ... and they don't seem to do much to develop the mood. Still, it's a nice song.

Rule the World With Love B+

Back to their sweet, upbeat tunes. This one has a little bit of a showtune quality about it. It has a nice poppy melody, and the predictable chorus. They just repeat those two sections a few times ... nothing too spectacular. I do like how they incorporated the accordion in this!

Wind it Up B

What's that? They open this song with heavy guitar riffs!! Whoah ........... Well, apart from that, this is pretty much business as usual for The Barenaked Ladies. The melody is marginally catchy though overly repetitive. It starts out well, but it loses steam well before its finished. It's well-written, of course.

BONUS TRACKS:

Quality B-

Bonus tracks on a recent album? ... The point of calling them bonus tracks is always going to be a mystery to me, I guess. It fits well in with the other songs. An OK tune and fine-tuned instrumentation but a woeful lack of inspiration. It gets staler as it goes along...

Another Spin B

This is pretty good. A nice pop melody with sensible orchestration.


Barenaked Ladies Are Men (2007)

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Barenaked Ladies Are Men

Serendipity B-

Well, this surely isn't bad. It's an ultra-polished mid-tempo rocker with a fitfully catchy melody. Some guitar stabs in the background create a sort of texture. It's perfectly listenable and inoffensive. It also isn't very memorable. They should work on making their music more fresh and vibrant!

Something You'll Never Find A-

There's a certain rock musical quality to this I like. The drums are very energetic, but somehow cheesy sounding. I know that's kind of a strange reason to like a song, but ... well, there you go. This also develops just like a rock musical. With a Broadway style chord progression, some upbeat lead vocals, and even some back-up “aahs.”

One and Only C-

Ouch! They're starting to go back to those adult contemporary ambitions they threatened to turn to in the mid-90s. They shouldn't try this sort of songwriting, because they're boring at it. The one thing that keeps this song from going underneath a distinctly mediocre C level is because I like those vocal layers. But seriously, guys. Stop this right now!

Angry People B

Sort of a nice, harmless song to bop your head to. It's very reminiscent of old '60s Burt Bacharach music. The song is very bouncy and they even come up with a sweet little horn sequence. Again, this is an in-your-ear, out-the-other sort of song, though it does provide for some pleasant listening. I will complain that those guitars are a little too choppy. I'd rather they work on polishing some textures than just simply bouncing a guitar.

Down to Earth C+

Just an ordinary song that's without the same personality that “Angry People” had. The best thing about this song are those squeaky sound effects they insert in the mix every once in awhile. It doesn't get much staler than that chorus. These guys need a muse of some sort...

Beautiful B+

There's a distinctly '60s pop music feeling to this. That light bossa nova beat coupled with that very light singing gives it that same sort of feeling. The Association were a band who used to do songs like this all the time ... and I'd say their level of songwriting skills were pretty similar to the Ladies'. They give us quite a pleasant little thing to sit through, and they glitter it up with a number of excellent sound effects. (That very light flute flutter... very awesome.) The only thing this song needed was a catchier melody. And why not also experiment a bit more with the chord progressions?

Running Out of Ink B-

This is much more typical of their classic sound. This is an incredibly upbeat and squeaky clean! I like listening to it for awhile though that groove starts to get a little old. The melody isn't worth much at all. ......And just when I'm thinking that, they do something unexpected: They work in an operatic aria! It's more convincing that you might think. They bring back the bouncy bit for the last minute, which they probably didn't need to do... I would rather hear more of the opera, or just end the song there...

Half a Heart C-

Every time they do another one of these boring, straightforward adult contemporary ballads, I'm going to give them a C- or less. Just a warning. Really, this is the same thing as “One and Only.” In the end, I can't tell the difference between the two. The only thing good about this song is that wobbly guitar that's almost playing India-mystic things.

Maybe Not C

This is an upbeat song, but it's entirely unremarkable. They have their sound down polished so well that they can put it through a manufacturing cycle, but I do wish they would work on those melodies. I know they like to be prolific, but maybe they should slow down and remember that quality and not quantity is the things people tend to remember. I mean, The Ventures put out a bazillion records, but how many people know about them?

I Can and I Will Do B

They open that with a sequence that actually sounds pretty good... but that's the sort of sequence that doesn't sound that great when it's repeated more than once. This song is a little better than the others, but it could have used some better development. Or at least a melody that caught fire.

Fun & Games B+

Remember about what I said that the Barenaked Ladies should come up with some more interesting chord progressions? Look at this! I'd call that weird little piano sequence at the beginning a pretty interesting chord progression. That's a strange little part, too, because all that plays is a very simple piano sequence and some very busy rattatatta drums. It's sort of cute. After that, it turns into a more typical Ladies song... A little repetitive at times, but it's a good one. ... And I guess to see if we're paying attention, they suddenly take it into a skiffly jazz part. ... The transition in and out of that was a little more awkward than that operatic diversion in “Running Out of Ink,” though...

The New Sad B

It's a ballad, but it's not one of those terrible adult contemporary things. It's just a simple little acoustic guitar ditty. It's very short, and somehow the melody still seems like it repeats too much (and it wasn't too terribly good to begin with). But that melancholy spirit they channel here is something I hope they find the time to delve a little more deeply into in their future... (Pigeon noises?)

Quality B-

Remember when I reviewed Barenaked Ladies Are Me and I wondered what was up with it having bonus tracks? Well, this is one of the songs. Were they previewing their next album? ... That's a little silly, don't you think? Anyway, they didn't improve the original at all. It's still pretty boring and stale.

Another Spin B+

And here's the other bonus track from Barenaked Ladies Are Me. I guess this gives me a chance to see how accurate my original song ratings were! Actually, I decided this was likable enough to give a B+ instead of that B. That orchestration is especially danceable and likable ... and even certain parts of this melody had a few decent, minor hooks in it. Some of this reminds me subtly of vintage They Might Be Giants, which is probably a good thing.

What a Let Down B

They turn up the electric guitars for this one, but it still doesn't betray their squeaky clean image! Actually, I wouldn't mind it if they took a moment and let their hair down a bit for a legitimate *RAWK* song, but they seemed pretty happy just doing this wimpy stuff. But still, this is somewhere in between their squeaky images and the harder. I guess that's something!

Why Say Anything Nice? C+

........seriously? OK. The Barenaked Ladies are complete crap! Although I guess the song is an OK flashy thing. It's just the hollowness of it shines through it and sorta makes me just sit through it and not really enjoy it. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh.


Snacktime! (2008)

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Snacktime!

7 8 9 A-

This is a 90-second song based on that cheesy old joke we used to tell as a kid. I like the goofy instrumentation, which I guess fits 'novelty' music pretty well. It's kept, light and bouncy, and occasionally we hear a funny out-of-tune accordion (or something) quietly in the background.

The Ninjas B

Why does this remind me of a Jimmy Buffet song? ... Apart from that, I guess it's OK, though the melody seems a little bland. But it only lasts a minute long, and it has enough energy. So I guess was just about right. There's really sort of an awkward end to it though.

Pollywog in a Bog A

At three minutes, this is one of the longer tracks on the album (thus it has more time to develop), and it's a lot of fun! This one moves by a sweet, hopping pace, which fits that childish lyrical matter just right. The melody is even overall decent though, it would have been better if they didn't rely too much on these obvious hooks. A fun song, though... especially when they bring in that steel drum and do this cute frog reggae bit.

Raisins B+

People come from apes!!!!! What's this propaganda you're spreading to our children?!??!?!??? ... I guess fundies wouldn't want their kids to listen to a rock group that's called “Barenaked Ladies” anyway, so it doesn't matter... This is another 90 minute song that's very bouncy and silly. The lyrics are funny though they make a lot of references that kids won't get. (I mean, I haven't even seen Grease 2.)

Eraser B+

This has a sort of cool beginning with someone singing a chorus of “Eeeeeeeeeeeeraser” and sounding almost exactly like Neil Young. Then, a very busy clapping rhythm plays, which I don't like at all. The ultra-dramatic ballad in the middle was kind of cool though ultimately boring... they were obviously trying to channel “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I Can Sing B-

This isn't bad... Just a little song played with a finger-pickin' banjo. I find the melody to be a little bland, but the song is just a minute, so it's not long enough to get boring.

Louis Loon C+

This is three minutes long making it one of the longer pieces. It's very straitlaced though, and not too unlike something that would have appeared on any of their two previous albums. The melody is incredibly forgettable, and they don't do much to make up for that with the instrumentation. ...Well, to be fair, they do something with mechanical-like synthesizers, but it's not really much.

Food Party B

This starts out as a sort of swing, but then it turns into a sort of cartoony party where all sorts of foods are having a party together. A lot of silly cartoony voices come in and tell us what foods they are and how they express their personalities. I gave it an extra point for that parody NPR radio host who comes in at the end of the track!

The Canadian Snacktime Trilogy i) Snacktime B

This starts out as a very serious sounding ballad about snacktime. (Of course, we know that it's tongue-in-cheek.) The bulk of this track is taken up by a lot of sound bytes they gathered from mostly-Canadian celebrities (and some of the band members' kids) who share what their favorite snacks are. I'm not sure what I think about that... It's kind of tedious though for some reason it's sort of amusingly refreshing.

The Canadian Snacktime Trilogy ii) Popcorn A-

This is very cute! And it's one of the most fun songs on the whole album. It starts out with a sort of ballad about mummy putting the popcorn on the stove. And then they erupt into choruses of “pop, pop, pop!” Sort of like a pop opera about popcorn.

The Canadian Snacktime Trilogy iii) Vegetable Town B

I want to call this a goofy kid's ballad about a magical town where everything's made out of vegetables. That's probably nightmarish imagery for 75 percent of the kids out there! But the rest of them would find the imagery charming. (And I suppose making a subway out of a zucchini is better than actually eating it.)

Drawing A

This is a blast! This one was probably designed for the parents who grew up in the '80s. Sounds exactly like those silly kiddie music videos I remember watching. Though maybe their kids will also appreciate that incredibly cheesy electronic groove and while the lead singer (giving a goofy sort of Elvis impression) tells us about the wonders of drawing and using our imagination. Hah!

Humungous Tree B+

This is sort of like a bossa nova! As usual, it's another very lighthearted piece with a generic though earnestly delivered melody. They do a pretty nice job with the instrumentation without exactly being true experts. The ultra-busy drumming twiddles by, and there's even a rather nice, subtle jazzy keyboard solos here and there. They get a little bit playful at the end ... playing with seemingly random vocal effects.

My Big Sister B-

...Up until now, the shortness of some of these tracks haven't bothered me at all (a few times I was glad to have been rescued from a bland melodic hook)! But this time, I get the feeling this ballad was about to take off, but then it just ... er ... stops. Uh, thanks!

Allergies A-

Ah yes... Allergies used to pretty much control my life in the months of August and September! And this sort of violent, theatrical tribute to them is a funny listen.

I Don't Like B

This is exactly one of those comedy country songs that's part singing and part corny conversation. It has its charm... and many of the kids will probably think it's funny. A really goofy operatic rendition of Mozart's “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” ends it, which does end up making me laugh!

What a Wild Tune A-

Wow... it takes some time to sift through this album, but there are some real gems in here! The melody is a little predictable (forgivable for a kids album), but the instrumentation is so much fun! Very chompy sort of drums with all sorts of clinks and clatters. The last minute of it is a sudden, echoey ballad with some wolf noises. This is a fun song.

Bad Day B

This is likable, though it's one of the blander, typical Barenaked Ladies sorts of tunes that I grew very tired of in the Are Me / Are Men couple. The melody is nice, though, and I won't deny that this thing is likable. Especially in the second half when they bring in that fruity flute.

Things B+

This is another ballad that's less than one minute... It's really such a sweet thing they have going that it's a real shame that they didn't work developing that into a real song. ........ Really a shame.

Curious B-

Another lighthearted, happy song, but it doesn't do much to stick out over the others. Once again, the melody is generic, and the instrumentation is fairly standard. Just the guitars and a usual drum rhythm. A little organ in the background.

A Word For That B-

......I'm getting bored with this album. You can tell by my overextended ellipses. This is a lot like the previous song with a generic melody and nothing too unique with the instrumentation. The lyrics are cute though. They would do a nice job in a kid's show, I think.

Wishing B-

Also not to exciting. Do I really have to try describing this? It's another upbeat pop rocker whose only distinguishable feature is that echoey synthesizer they bring in the background. Not a big deal. It's pleasant though.

Crazy ABC's B+

They revisit some of that comedic interplay that they previous did in “If I Had a Million.” It sounds improvised ... but it isn't, of course. It's a conversation between two of the band-members. One of whom says he came up with an alphabet ... he goes through the alphabet reciting goofy words. “F for fohn, G for gnarly, I for irk, H for hour, J for jalepeno...” It's kind of fun to hear, and kids'll like it. They also gave me a pretty valuable scrabble tip! (I spelled “quasi” once on a triple word tile. I still managed to lose the game, though.)

Here Come the Geese A-

And here come the end of this MONSTROUS album! (OK, it only seems monstrous because I had to come up with something to write about 24 songs.) Well, this is quite a nice song! It's very thunderous. Starts out with a piano twinking in its mid range. They come in with a fairly nice vocal melody. It's one of the album's more serious songs, but it comes off quite nicely. Those lyrics are pretty neat, too... just a majestic tribute to those freaking geese that invade everything. (Well they were everywhere when I lived in Kansas. I wanted to shoot them.)


All in Good Time (2010)

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All in Good Time

You Run Away C+

Ugh!! ...you run away from this album because of this song! But let me tell you, don't let this plastic piece of adult contemporary boringness turn your immediately off on this album, since there's some good stuff here. Just wait until this thing is over, and you'll start to hear it. The instrumentation is polished and sounds nice on the ears. There's twinkly piano and sterile but nonetheless crunchy electric guitars. But it isn't until Ed Robertson starts to sing that I am reminded of every dull CCM song I've been subjected to in my life. (And believe me, there have been a lot of them.) If they were going to go down this road, they would have needed to come up with a melody that kills instead of one that's just mildly likable. Yawn!

Summertime A-

See? I told you it would get better... This starts with a buzzy and fun guitar riff that is reminiscent of their classic novelty-rock origins, but then the chorus is more reminiscent of a mid '70s, pre-disco soul tune. It's quite good. Both of these sections flow well into one another, and the melody is very lovable and catchy. Of course their vocals have always been good, and they're so friendly that they make me want to invite them to my house for a barbeque. (...I'm not actually serious about that, by the way... if they show up at my door, I'm gonna slam it in their faces... even if they're singing “Brian Wilson.”) Extra props to their keyboardist who's playing that terrific bendy synthesizer during the chorus.

Another Heartbreak A

Who is that keyboardist, anyhow? Kevin Hearn. (That's right, I'm writing this review with Wikipedia open.) He also wrote this excellent little song. It starts out as a sweet piano ballad, but it isn't long before some thunderous electric guitars and drums pipe up and start playing some surprisingly epic passages. This songs develops in some very surprising ways, and I end up enjoying it quite a lot even though its vocal melody is repetitive and not terribly involving.

Four Seconds B+

More like 164 seconds! Steven Page might have had the band's reputation as the premiere novelty-rock guy, but this just as goofy and sweet as Barenaked Ladies have ever been. It's a bouncy cabaret ditty done in the exact style perfected by The Real Tuesday Weld except with distinct BNL vocal styling. The instrumentation is fun and playful, particularly that buzz-bass guitar, which threatens to turn the whole thing into a crazy bit of chaos. The melody is OK, but I would have expected something like this to be more infectious.

On the Lookout B+

I like the way this starts with a mid-tempo bouncy pop-piano and a playfully screetchy synthesizer. But the pattern loses its barb rather quickly, and all there's left to enjoy about the song is a rather soaring chorus. The melody is fine, and well sung, but once again, it doesn't stick with me. I will at least give props to their smart instrumentation standards... they know when to bring in the soaring back-up strings, and a few sound effects keep the bouncy piano-pop sections more interesting than they would have otherwise.

Ordinary B

I wouldn't quite call this song “ordinary” since the instrumentation is quite well done. The acoustic guitar is well arpeggiated, and I like the subtle dramatic turn it takes to build up to an appropriately soaring chorus. ...But that's pretty much all I have to say about it. It's a nicely mature song, like a more polished version of a Simon and Garfunkel ditty. But it just doesn't seem terribly inspired. As soon as it's through playing, I completely forget about it.

I Have Learned B+

This is an awfully well-written album. This song, in particular, they go so far as to create a riff, which would have sounded good in an early '90s bar-rock song. (I mean, is that some cowbell I detect ever-so-faintly in the background?... Where the hell is Christopher Walken?) They haven't abandon their friendly white-bread demeanor, which you can hear in their very tame vocals. I like their singing, so that's not a criticism, but I suppose I would have appreciated a little cheeky GRUFF in their vocals.

Every Subway Car B-

It's high-time subway cars have been given their due in pop-rock. And all it took was some Canadians to do it. (“Don't Sleep in the Subway” is about people, not the actual subway cars. Nice try, Petula Clark.) But anyway. This is another fitfully good pop song with an OK but non-infectious melody. The instrumentation is nicely polished and “mature,” which is easy on the ears, but it runs the risk of growing sterile. They make nice use of gruff-but-polished electric guitars, which are always fun to hear.

Jerome B-

This is another nice sounding song that's entertaining me well enough, but it's not moving me. Come on, guys! It doesn't take much to move me! I like the shuffly rhythm they come up with, but the melody is as forgettable as everything that I've ever forgotten in my life (I would give you an example, but I can't remember). Kevin Hearn's singing is very lackadaisical, which I think also hurts the experience.

How Long B-

I wonder if listening to those Petula Clark albums have been negatively influencing these ratings? Eh... On my cursory listens to this album, I really wasn't too thrilled with this mid-section part of the album anyway. I've gotta trust my gut! This is yet another entirely professional song. They bring back the loud-but-polished guitars, helping them make this song be bold and driven, but once again, I don't find it very memorable. The chorus seems awfully stale. I'd probably hate this if they didn't know how to create such appealing guitar sounds. (If Toby Keith came up with this exact melody and sang it, I know I would hate it.)

Golden Boy A-

At least I know Toby Keith isn't capable of coming up with a melody as good as this. (Or at least I think so... Maybe Toby Keith is secretly good, for all I know about it?) Anyway, this has that bright and bold sound that they're best known for, particularly the chorus which is loud and fun. The melody, for bloody once, is catchy. There's some handclaps at the end. Very fun. Perhaps it's nothing I'd ever sing along with in my car (unlike much of Gordon), but I welcome this song, which at least has some echoes of Gordon.

I Saw It A

There's something I really like about that regularly pulsating bass and the ethereal strings they build-up. They make their lead guitar twinkly, like they were the stars or something. The melody is even nice to hear, and Jim Creegan delivers a remarkably sweet and soaring vocal performance. He might not be the group's strongest vocalist, but he sounds genuine there. This is a very pretty gem.

The Love We're In C+

...Yawn. This is slowly paced and uneventful. The melody is professional and decent, but I don't get anything out of it. The instrumentation is also professional, but I can't find much else to say about it. (Drums? Guitar? …I suppose I like that watery organ... There, I said that.) It's a well-written song but not an inspired one. It's by far the shortest song of the album (at two minutes 42 seconds), but I'm ready for it to end after 30 seconds.

Watching the Northern Lights B

It seems like I should like this more. After all, they did a great job with the stargazing imagery in “I Saw It,” and it would seem this song would be even more directly related to stargazing. ...But where are the strings? Where is the involved bass? They create a nice pattern with their rhythm guitar, and there's some bare synthescapes in the background. There's a pleasant, reverb-heavy piano solo. But none of that sticks out at me and ignites my imagination. “I Saw It” did that. ...But all the same, this is a decent tune. It lasts nearly five minutes, and I like the experience of sitting through it. As I said, it's a pleasant song.


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All reviews are written by Michael Lawrence.