SameDiff BNL

BNL Join The Hits Parade

By MIKE ROSS, Edmonton Sun, November 11th, 2001.

Every successful rock band is issued two get-out-of-jail-free cards during its career — the greatest hits album and the live album (plus a bonus card to worthy contestants: the Rarities and B-sides collection).

They must be played very carefully, for each represents a needed vacation from the hamster wheel of recording, touring, recording, touring and so on until burnout or breakup, whichever comes first. With the release of Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits, the Barenaked Ladies are fresh out of cards. They do, however, get at least six months off — as do an unusual number of recording artists deploying greatest hits albums this season. At this rate, it's going to be a very quiet first half of 2002.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" says singer Steven Page. "There's a Corrs greatest hits. I guess they're huge in Europe. They still only have three albums, I think.

"I think the trend was sparked by last year's Lenny Kravitz greatest hits. There was a hit single on it. People went, geez, these are actually viable things, just like when we made our live album five years ago. People were shocked that it actually sold and got on the radio."

It was the live Rock Spectacle in 1996, in fact, that got the band's foot in the door of America (a big door needs a big foot). People went crazy for Brian Wilson. The album Stunt and the massive hit single One Week followed and the rest is recent history. If I Had A Million Dollars soon became more than wishful thinking. They need never buy another box of Kraft Dinner as long as they live. Page states the party line that a greatest hits album is a swell thing for fans, especially Americans who may not have even heard If I Had A Million Dollars, probably the Ladies' best-known song despite the fact it was never a single or had a video.

Talk turns to Sept. 11, as it often does, referring to one of Barenaked Ladies' most interesting songs to date: The lush and haunting Sell, Sell, Sell. Imagine Gilbert & Sullivan as a rock band. Page admits he has a soft spot for records produced by Mitch Miller, which represent white soul at its finest. And whitest. As for the lyrics, you guessed it — they take on new meaning in light of the terrorist attacks.

Says Page: "We couldn't find a rhyme with Osama bin Laden, so we didn't use it, but the song does allude to anthrax. It's about inventing enemies in the Middle East so you can bomb the shit out of them. It's certainly not a new idea. There's a line about Saddam and his cow disease. We just thought no one would ever drop anthrax on anything, saying, 'As if Saddam Hussein is going to drop anthrax on you, you paranoid idiots.' Whoops."

It's not new meaning, Page says, it's the same old meaning — "and that's what frightens me."

He recognizes the irony of so many recording artists — everyone from the Tea Party to Bon Jovi — claiming new meaning in songs written before the fact. Says Page: "You can't help but look at it and think, are people trying to sell something based on this tragedy?"

With the cry of "do your patriotic duty and buy stuff" echoing across the land, you can't doubt it. As Page sings in Sell, Sell, Sell, "How well you learn to not discern who is foe and who is friend. We'll own them all in the end."