StuntBy JAMES HUNTER, Rolling Stone #793.
Barenaked Ladies realize that some people don't want tunefulness as style, that the world contains more than a few Hootie-honed melody lovers who long to throw back their heads, place a hand on their polo-shirted hearts and sing along. The straightforwardly produced songs on Stunt, the Toronto quintet's fifth album, rely on accessible melodies of ballpark durability; they're like national anthems of untrendy fun. Songwriters Steven Page, Ed Robertson and Stephen Duffy aspire to a Richard Carpenter or Burt Bacharach brand of intensity. Some songs come close, like the bracing "Leave," the wonderfully louche "Alcohol" and "Call and Answer," a love ballad with a demented ending.
And then, of course, there is their quirky streak. Barenaked Ladies open the album with the faux-hip-hop "One Week," a high-spirited Gap rap that cites pop-culture references from Bert Kaempfert to Harrison Ford and still offers fans the opportunity to shout out the chorus. Sometimes the humour is subtler - "There's a guy who's been awake since the Second World War," goes a line in "Who Needs Sleep?" - and at other times the jokes just seem confused, as on "I'll Be That Girl," which sounds like Kmart Morrissey. They aim, Page told an interviewer, to meld comedy and drama, much as the film Trainspotting did. On Stunt, that seems a bit of a dream. But will it matter once the sing-along millions join in?
Rating: 2½ stars (of 5).