SameDiff BNL


By CHRISTOPHER,, October 9th 2000.

Writing a record review is an interesting thing, especially when writing it after the album has come out. I've had the chance to read other reviews before completing my own, (there seem to be two kinds: the ones that want to be the first to say "I told you they were a One Hit Wonder" (Spin), and the ones that want to say "I told you they would last" (Entertainment Weekly)), and I'm sad to say that no one seems to realize that Maroon is the band's 5th studio album, not the 2nd. Clearly, someone with some knowledge of the band's history needs to take a close look at this new collection of songs. A "True Fan", if you will.

Of course, as a "True Fan" I'd love to tell you all that Barenaked Ladies haven't made a good album since 1994's Maybe You Should Drive, and I'd love to whine for hours on end about the fact that Andy Creeggan should've never left the band, and I'd like to tell you that their new album, Maroon, is a piece of crap. And I'd like to point out that while most reviews are fond of telling you that producer Don Was worked on projects with Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones, he's done less-than-stellar work with Voice of the Beehive and Paula Abdul - and what the hell was up with that whole Chris Gaines thing anyway?

However, if I went on about that, I'd be a huge liar, because the album is pretty good. The band is developing a new sound, while at the same time returning a little bit to the things that I originally liked about the band: solid songwriting, great harmonies, and a willingness to experiment a little with everybody's concept of what a hit song should be.

The album grows on you quickly, especially when you begin to notice all of the detailed work that went into making the album. A good example of this is during the bridge of the two-steppity "Go Home": "You can't believe it, but it's true/ {insert steel guitar lick} / She's given everything to you / {insert backwards steel guitar lick!}" The "High-Ass Vocals" by Jim Scott, and the glockenspiel (?!) by Jim Creeggan add even more interesting things to listen to (and that's on top of the quick lyrics with the A/A/A/A rhyme scheme), and that's on the shortest song on the album. Nearly everything on the album is packed like that, making for an album that bears up under repeated listenings. Trust me.

All of the songs were written by Steven Page (lead vocals, backing vocals, guitar, flute, recorder) and Ed Robertson (lead vocals, backing vocals, electric, acoustic, and 12-string guitars, mandolin, banjo, cabasa, tambourine) except for "Baby Seat", written by Stephen Page and past collaborator Stephen Duffy. The band is rounded out by Tyler Stewart (drums, tambourine, 808 drums, shaker, bells, timpani, cowbells, castanets - look, any manner of percussion instrument makes an appearance. he also does some backing vocals), Jim Creeggan (electric bass, double bass, electric double bass, backing vocals, viola, violin, baritone guitar (?), glockenspiel) and relative newcomer Kevin Hearn (piano, clavinet, melodica, organ, -anything with piano keys, actually, as well as electric guitar, vocoder, glockenspiel, baritone guitar (? again), and backing vocals). That's a lot of instruments to cleanly fit together without making everything sound like aural soup, and the band, with Don Was (all right, we'll chalk Chris Gaines up to a drunken bet) does a fantastic job of keeping everything clean and interesting.

And so, a quick rundown:

The upshot is this: If you're a fan from way back, you'll probably like this album, and you'll probably like it more than Stunt. It may not replace Gordon, or any other BNL album, but it's kilometers ahead of any crap that's blaring from your local CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio: formula music only) station.

More importantly, a lot of it is better than anything that they've put out themselves, and it's a good sign when a band can develop their sound as they age. I guess the real trick is hoping that your fan base can grow and develop with you. I sure hope the fans are up to it, even though you'll always find people looking back a little, too.

Maybe Andy Creeggan could produce the next album.