The Top Five Rock Artists of the Decade (2000s): NUMBER TWO is Barenaked Ladies

Originally posted 2010-04-19 14:30:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This is the fourth in a five part series dedicated to the top five rock artists of the decade, 2000-2009.  The criteria used to determine this list were: (1) Quality of Music, (2) Quantity of Released Material, (3) Diversity of Media, and (4) Roles of Artists/Band Members.  Look for new posts coming soon!

By Chris Moore:

As we close in on my top pick for best rock artist of the decade, the decisions are getting more and more difficult.  In an attempt to be as unbiased as possible, I initially had last post’s honoree — Jack White — in the #2 spot.  Then I started listening to All in Good Time, which led me back to their albums of last decade.  After one listen to Maroon and Everything to Everyone, I knew that the Barenaked Ladies belonged in a higher position.  It should also be noted that while I do believe I made the right choice for the #1 slot, I have been a BnL fan for much longer, and they hold quite an important place in my heart where music is concerned.

That being said, let’s get this party started!

The Barenaked Ladies have distinguished themselves in all four of the categories I’ve established (see above) for this list.  They are a constantly evolving group of songwriter/musicians and performers, not content to rest easy at what worked for them in the past.  Throughout this, the second full decade of their existence, they have been prolific, releasing new material in every year except 2009.  In addition to typical studio albums every three years, this decade has seen the release of a greatest hits collection, a DVD compilation of their music videos, a holiday-themed album, a musical production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It (the one release in their catalog I have yet to set eyes on), their first live DVD, and a children’s album with accompanying book.

Although the decade ended with the oft-noted and overly publicized departure of founding member Steven Page, the remaining four members closed out 2009 by recording a series of eighteen songs, fourteen of which would find their way to 2010’s All in Good Time.

In every way that matters, the Barenaked Ladies have been a creative force to reckon with — and pay attention to — throughout this decade, and despite the criticism of naysayers, they have a very promising future in the next.

POST-STUNT EXPECTATIONS

To say that there was a lot riding on Maroon would be an understatement.

After the breakthrough success of 1998’s Stunt (via the chart-topping “One Week”), BnL’s image and career stood to be reconsidered based on what came next.  While Maroon was successful enough to preclude accusations of one-hit-wonder status, their American audience in particular seemed less and less interested in their work as the years went on.  This much is apparent in the charts, each album topping out further down than the previous one.  (As of this writing, this continues to hold true for All in Good Time, which has peaked at 23; in Canada, on the other hand, it has rightfully marked a comeback, hitting #3 which is the highest chart position for a BnL album there since Maroon.)

But numbers are numbers.  There are so many important aspects of modern life which, contrary to the beliefs and attempts of the powers that be, simply cannot be quantified.

Music is certainly one of those.

Maroon is BnL’s most fully-realized, cohesive, balanced album; it is serious, yet entertaining — fast and slow, loud and quiet.  The first half is populated by equally single-worthy rockers like “Falling for the First Time,” “Too Little Too Late,” and “Pinch Me,” the latter admittedly seeming like a wanna-be follow-up to “One Week.”  The second half of the album stretches out a bit, unwinding hauntingly gorgeous ballads like “Off the Hook” and “Helicopters.”  I haven’t even mentioned some of my favorites — “Baby Seat,” “Go Home,” and “The Humour of the Situation.”  This is a true five star album.

Although the album and singles performed well, it was apparent that they were all received with a bit less interest than Stunt‘s material had been (or, more accurately, its lead-off single).  I, for one, think that it is no coincidence that this was just about the same time that I began to lose interest in popular radio and music television.

BRILLIANCE IN RELATIVE OBSCURITY

To avoid going into painstaking detail about every track that the Barenaked Ladies have released since 2000, I will begin by saying that there is a vast sea of reasons to be interested in and entertained by this band.  As much as I felt people should have been more receptive to Maroon, I was flabbergasted at the apathy that 2003’s Everything to Everyone.  How an album that could so masterfully run the gamut between silly and serious, all the while being consistently brilliant — both lyrically and instrumentally — is beyond me.  This album is composed of some truly killer tracks: sardonic songs like “Celebrity” and “Second Best,” upbeat rockers like “Testing 1, 2, 3” and “Unfinished,” a love song like “Maybe Katie,” the oddly foreboding “War on Drugs,” and the stereotypical BnL knee-slappers “Another Postcard” and “Shopping.”

A lack of public praise never slowed them down, as 2006 saw the recording of 29 new tracks.  Where the band went wrong, in this writer’s opinion, was in deciding to release one album that year and a second album the following year.  What ended up happening was the most outstanding tracks were split between the two discs and, with a lack of cohesion between the two discs, the Are Me/Are Men project was simply not as good as it could have been.  Even Wikipedians are uncertain how to classify these selections in their catalog — either as the seventh or the seventh and eighth albums of BnL’s career.  Still, these releases saw the unveiling of a new era for the band — one of independence from major labels and of stretching their musical sensibilities.  Kevin Hearn’s contributions demonstrated the potential that he presented not only as an instrumentalist and singer, but also as a songwriter.  Jim Creeggan’s beautiful vocals also showed significant promise, even if they were only showed off on a silly number.

These three (or four?) albums would be reason alone to consider BnL one of the best bands of the decade.  And yet they didn’t stop there.  In the past ten years, the band has released some amazing work, not the least of which are their holiday album and children’s album.  The holiday album, Barenaked for the Holidays, brilliantly blended Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter-themed songs in one very characteristic collection (think: “Elf’s Lament,” “Green Christmas,” and others).  The latter, Snacktime!, swung far enough to the silly side of the spectrum to be largely ignored by “serious” music critics.  That being said, anyone who takes a moment to listen to the harmonies and instrumentation will realize that Snacktime! is a masterpiece unto itself, two of the best tracks — “Pollywog in a Bog” and “Louis Loon” — being penned by the unusual collaboration of Creeggan & Ed Robertson.  And it saw the lead vocal debut of Tyler Stewart on the rocking “Allergies,” a song that almost makes me feel cool for having season allergies myself.

AN ARREST, A CRASH, A BREAK, A VOW

Far too much has been written about the moments of crisis and tragedy in the personal lives of the Barenaked Ladies these past few years, so I’ll be especially brief here.  If you’ve kept up with music news, you know that Steven Page was arrested on charges of drug possession, Ed Robertson crashed his plane (fortunately with no serious injuries sustained), and Page’s departure was announced in 2009.  All in all, not a wonderful end to the decade.

That being said, the four remaining members — Robertson, Hearn, Creeggan, and Stewart — have vowed to continue recording and performing as BnL.  How well is that going?

One listen to All in Good Time is all you’ll need to answer that one on your own.

“Shoe Box” (Barenaked Ladies Cover)

Originally posted 2009-03-10 22:49:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Tonight, another event in my ongoing tribute entitled, “Steven Page, we hardly knew ye.”  Steven Page leaving Barenaked Ladies has been traumatic for me, musically.  It’s like if John left the Beatles and the band went on without him.  They’d still be a great band with three songwriters, singers, and musicians, but you would always wonder if they’ll ever get back together, etc…

At first, I likened Steven Page leaving Barenaked Ladies after 20 years to Brian Wilson taking a self-inflicted leave from the Beach Boys starting in late 1967.  But, I then realized that Page leaving BNL is much worse in a way, but better in another.

You see, when Brian Wilson stopped making music with the Beach Boys on a regular basis (and being the producer), the other Boys (Carl, Dennis, Mike, Al, and Bruce) hadn’t really been accomplished songwriters yet.  I mean, it took them until 1968 to really put together an album and it definitely sounds like a first effort in many ways.  We were all just lucky to discover five brilliant songwriters behind Brian Wilson.  In many ways, for me, Brian recessing in the Beach Boys contributes to my love of the band because, well, they really became a band after that.  You had five songwriting members that played instruments and sang and went out and played concerts- that incarnation of the Beach Boys is almost unsurpassed, for me.

With Steven Page, he leaves the band with three accomplished songwriters (especially Ed Robertson, with a #1 single in “One Week” under his belt) and some fine singers, to boot.  So, BNL has a bit of a head-start.  In fact, there shouldn’t be too much of a hiccup, other than Page’s recent flurry of depressing songs and over-the-top oparetta vocals.

The thing that makes Page’s absence worse is that, at least for the forseeable future, it’s permanent.  With the Beach Boys, Brian was always still around in some form.  He always contributed at least one song to every album, even if they had to dig it up and force him to complete it.  Fans would always hope for the next Brian Wilson gem and it was comforting to know he was there, readying himself for a possible comeback that never really came.  Of course, I say this like I was there- I wasn’t even alive until after Brian’s amazingly talented brother Dennis died- I’m just speaking from what I’ve read in the past.

So, after that whole explanation, I’m really trying to say that I’m having a hard time getting over the restructuring of my second-all-time favorite band.  Tonight’s video is a little tribute to Steven Page.

“Shoe Box” (which I always thought was “Shoebox”) was a single and had its own EP (with includes a decent song in “Trust Me’) and served as a bridge between the style of the first three albums and the albums to follow (starting with “Stunt”).  The song was also on “Born On A Pirate Ship” in a much more subdued tone, much to that version’s detriment.  The rockin’ single version is my choice, and that’s what I did my video after.  How can you tell them apart?  Well, the album verison just starts off with the instruments and vocals at the same time.  The single goes through the chord progression before Steven Page starts in.

Listen to the words closely on this one- a very interesting message to it.  Also, you may have to look up the words, as it took Chris and I about five years to realize that he’s not saying, “And Rumplestiltskin side my shoe box!” and is in fact saying, “When talk turns to single malts and Stilton and my shoe box!”  Who would’ve thought?

Okay- a long post tonight to make up for last week.  Tomorrow night, I have a BIG announcement about my new album and that just means more work for me.  So, you’ll have to stay tuned until another all-new Original Wednesday comes your way!  Have a great night and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!



BnL Live at the Klein, November 2010 – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-11-21 12:24:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

See the Set List HERE.

On the heels of my previous BnL concert review, posted little more than three months ago, there isn’t much more that needs to be said, other than to underscore several assertions concerning the Barenaked Ladies.

First, it really can never be too soon to see them play live again.  After seeing them in August with decent seats and having had an outstandingly fun time, I almost considered letting this second New England tour stopover pass me by.

Almost.

Being fortunate enough to live in an area that is located in, as a friend recently referred to it, the “Barenaked Belt,” it simply doesn’t make sense to not take advantage of it.  And, this time around, the venue was considerably smaller – Mohegan Sun Arena being 9500 capacity, and the Klein Auditorium being only 1400.  We sat front row balcony, or “mezzanine” as the theatre people say, and got some performances that probably wouldn’t find their way into a stadium set, songs like the rarely played “Moonstone” and “Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel.”

A second assertion, and perhaps the main thrust of my August review, is that BnL is every bit as good as they were when Steven Page was in the band.  This is surprising, as he is such a unique talent and a man who brings considerable stage presence and energy to the live shows.

And, for the record, let’s be clear that I would love to see the five-man band reunited at some point down the road.

But, for now, the four-piece Barenaked Ladies are still a force to be reckoned with, and they have apparently decided that no catalog item is off limits, regardless of how much of a “Steven” song it is/was.  Take, for example, the fairly standard middle of their order, a veritable greatest hits of Steven Page tracks: “Sound of Your Voice,” “It’s All Been Done,” “Too Little Too Late,” and “Brian Wilson,” all topped off with the not-so-subtle “You Run Away.”

A third assertion is one that struck me early in the set last night: the Barenaked Ladies are the rare group of men that have gotten cooler as the years pass.  One needs only to compare their image and sound from the excellent and not-to-be-slighted Gordon era with their current stage show in order to appreciate just how cool they’ve become without losing too many fans to claims of selling out.

They have such a vast array of music, and to a certain degree, they allow for it in their set lists.  Although there are certain songs that you can reasonably expect (and in certain orders), there is room for adlibs and unexpected deep tracks, songs like those mentioned above.  Even songs that have been played about ten thousand times over their career, like “One Week,” have taken on a fresh appeal.  With Kevin Hearn singing the Page parts of “One Week” last night, I think they’ve finally perfected their recent live arrangement of this, their best-known composition.  Likewise, Tyler Stewart and Jim Creeggan have stepped up their game, Stewart bringing down the house with his reinvigorated, Jack Black-esque approach to “Alcohol” and Creeggan with his on-stage gesticulations, ear-to-ear grin, and acceptance of the spotlight for tracks like “On the Lookout” and “Peterborough and the Kawarthas.”

Finally, as if it needs to be said, Ed Robertson is a force unto himself.  His white man rapping helped to establish the band’s public image, and he is ever willing to put himself out there for a laugh.

When I choose the words “put himself out there,” I mean that literally.

Last night, as a tribute to their excellent opening act Jukebox the Ghost’s final night on tour, Robertson emerged from backstage with only a towel on.  Then, positioning himself between keyboardist/lead vocalist Ben Thornewill and the audience, he opened his towel so only Thornewill could see him and proceeded to dance to the music.  He moved around the stage and repeated this process for the other two band members.  Meanwhile, the crowd was laughing and clapping and screaming, and guitarist Tommy Siegel laughed his way through his vocals.

As Thornewill pointed out after the song, he could only see Robertson in his peripheral vision at first.  When he reached his hand out to pretend to tickle him, he found that Robertson was indeed wearing only a towel.

Never let it be said that the “Barenaked” part of their band name hasn’t been earned.

Forgive me for getting up on my soapbox yet again, but BnL continues to be one of the most underappreciated rock music acts of the modern age.  If you or someone you know hears “Barenaked Ladies” and instantly thinks “goofy,” “funny,” “If I Had $1,000,000,” and/or “One Week,” then check bnlmusic.com for a tour date in your area.  One show and you’ll be hooked.  Guaranteed.

I’ve been a fan now for over a decade, and they continue to recapture my interest and adoration each and every time I see them live.

As I climb off my soapbox, I bid you good day and hope this review might at least inspire a spin of Maroon or Stunt.  Or Gordon.  Or Maybe You Should Drive.  Or Everything to Everyone.  Or…

Well, you get the idea.

Barenaked Ladies SET LIST – 8/06/2010 at Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT

Originally posted 2010-08-07 12:03:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Click HERE to read the review!

1)  “Who Needs Sleep?”
2)  “Old Apartment”
3)  “Falling for the First Time”
4)  Improv 1 – “At Mohegan Sun” rap / “Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good”
5)  “Every Subway Car” (with Angel Taylor)
6)  “Told You So”
7)  “Easy”
8)  “Eraser”
9)  “Another Heartbreak”
10) “On the Lookout”
11) “Sound of Your Voice” (acoustic)
12) “It’s All Been Done”
13) “Too Little Too Late”
14) “Golden Boy”
15) “You Run Away”
16) “Four Seconds”
17) “Big Bang Theory Theme”
18) “One Week”
19) “Pinch Me”
20) “If I Had $1000000”
21) Improv 2 – “Oh, It’s Magic, You Know” / rap / dance number

22) “Alcohol”
23) “Watching the Northern Lights”
24) “Brian Wilson”