The Barenaked Ladies’ “Maroon” (2000) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2009-12-07 00:12:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

** This is the first in a five part series of music reviews, counting down from the #5 to the #1 albums of the decade, 2000-2009.  On January 2nd, 2010, the #1 album will be revealed, along with the complete Weekend Review picks for the Top Thirty Albums of the Decade. **

By Chris Moore:

RATING: 5/5 stars

Maroon is one of those rare albums that truly has it all.

There are catchy singles, mid-tempo numbers, and ballads.  The subject matter is at times serious, at others sentimental, but always with tongues planted (with various degrees of firmness) in cheek.  Indeed, the songwriting duo of Ed Robertson and Steven Page is at their best — and arguably their most collaborative and exclusive — on this record.

There is a reason Page/Robertson should be remembered as one of rock’s all-time great pairings, and this album is the best support for that argument.

In most circles, it seems as though 1998’s Stunt, with the #1 hit single “One Week,” has been cemented as the essential disc from the Barenaked Ladies’ catalog, and yet that album has always seemed quirky and unique at the expense of true substance.

Maroon is the document of a band at the pinnacle of their success, having refined their work through various members, styles, and phases.

And it is truly one of the best albums of the decade.

The Barenaked Ladies' "Maroon" (2000)

The Barenaked Ladies' "Maroon" (2000)

From the first strums of “Too Little Too Late,” Maroon establishes its sonic landscape with crunchy, catchy electric guitar parts supported by crisp rhythm guitars and typically impressive work from both Jim Creegan on bass and Tyler Stewart on drums.  Whereas multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn had helped to redefine BnL’s sound on Stunt, the balance of power shifted somewhere between 1998 and 2000 to find Hearn truly taking a place as a Barenaked Lady, a member of the band rather than a catalyst for change.

And the contributions he makes to the band — his electric solos (take one listen to the end of “Pinch Me”) as well as more unique instrumental parts — make it difficult to return to earlier albums and not distinctly feel his absence.

And in front of it all, Steven Page and Ed Robertson share singing duties on an album that is noteworthy for its vocals alone.  On “Pinch Me,” Robertson and Page manage to recreate the magic of “One Week” in a more fully developed track.  It is easy to view this as an attempt to recapture the runaway success of the aforementioned #1 single (perhaps even more so with the Everything to Everyone lead single “Another Postcard”), but a closer listen will yield a respect for “Pinch Me” as a song that stands on its own.

The first five tracks are an adrenaline rush of catchy, upbeat songs.  Try not to gasp for air attempting to sing all the words.

And this is the type of album that compels one to learn the words, just to feel what it is like to be on the “in,” and to sing the words along with Page and Robertson.

Tracks six and seven take a different direction, slowing down the tempo and becoming very serious.  Still, they manage to be songs that simultaneously demand one’s attention and are entertaining at every turn.

The subsequent songs, “Humor of the Situation” and “Baby Seat,” pick up the pace and inject new life into the album before coming in for a final landing via three increasingly sobering tracks, all to be topped off by the bonus track: the touching, hauntingly beautiful Hearn-penned “Hidden Sun.”

By the time the hidden track has faded out, the listener’s first response must be to crank the volume up on “Too Little Too Late.”  There is a certain psychology attached to the sequencing of this album, which guides one into the depths of the human psyche, passing fears and concerns and regrets and startling revelations before returning to the top to begin the journey all over again.

Any album that can provide this type of experience, incorporate wordplay at all the right moments to suggest — if not prove — the band’s levity amongst all this serious subject matter, and do so all in the form of infectiously catchy and moving songs demands to be respected and recognized in the annals of rock history.

Short of that, it deserves a place on this writer’s top thirty best albums of the decade list.

Slot number five, to be exact.

Released only nine months into the decade, Maroon set the bar quite high for all other new rock music albums to come.

Returning for a listen today only confirms that the bar is still quite high and securely in place.

This is one in a series of acoustic cover songs, original music, and free mp3 downloads here on the Laptop Sessions Music Video Blog.

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