Stunt-MenBy GARY GRAFF, Wall of Sound, September 2000.
Toward the end of Maroon, the sixth album by the witty Canadian quintet Barenaked Ladies, singer Steven Page notes that "If you think growing up is tough/ Then you've just not grown up enough, baby." Indeed, Maroon is BNL's grown-up album, still full of clever wordplay and winking couplets, but also dealing with dark and sometimes disarming matters of adulthood. Themes range from relationship woes to self-doubt to fatal car crashes and even a light dollop of politics, all touched with the general frailty of life, underscored by the unlisted closing track "Hidden Sun," a gentle but triumphant rumination written by keyboardist and cancer survivor Kevin Hearn. But it's not all deadly serious; the magic is that BNL and producer Don Was cloak all that within buoyant, carefully crafted pop tunes, rich in harmony and hooks. Take, for instance, the pair of numbers sung by guitarist Ed Robertson: the world-weary first single "Pinch Me" and the soaring "Falling for the First Time." While the former's chorus echoes the rat-a-tat rap of 1998's smash "One Week" and tosses in lighthearted jibes such as "I just made you say underwear," the latter cheerfully offers a catalog of insecurities ("I'm so cool/ Too bad I'm a loser") over a deft melody and a sinewy, memorable guitar lick. An arena-ready riff launches the album-starting "Too Little Too Late," while "Never Do Anything" and "The Humor of the Situation" are familiar BNL popscapes. "Baby Seat" has a Spector-esque sweep and energy, and a light twang gives "Go Home" the feel of spirited country.
Maroon only falters on the overdone theatricality of "Sell, Sell, Sell" and the noir waltz of "Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel." The light, jazzy rhumba of "Conventioneers," the Page-sung account of a pair of co-workers' one-night stand and its awkward aftermath ("Now I wait, come in late/ It'd be great if you transferred out of state") is a much more engaging narrative. Otherwise, Maroon is a collection of sharply executed gems that proves its predecessor, the multiplatinum Stunt, was no fluke.
Rating: 84 / 100.