Barenaked Ladies – Everything To Everyone

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Album Review by EDF

Most bands can easily be pigeon holed to a description that best sums up what they are about. So here is the test, can anybody out there sum up what the Barenaked Ladies are all about? Anyone, anyone, thought not. This does not bid well for a group who have been around for over 15 years. It is not that these Canadians do not write catchy songs but they seem to be anonymous to anyone outside of Canada and the US.

The songs here border on simple pop classics to the ridicules; a kind of They Might Be Giants but less wacky. The opening track CELEBRITY and TESTING 1,2,3 is a non-to convincing look at how celebrity life is tiring for the band. MAYBE KATIE conjures up the sort of discussion men would have with each other about the pros and cons of committing to a relationship with a single mother. The track also has on one of the more memorable choruses. This is followed by the reggae / hip-hop rapping track ANOTHER POSTCARD which is supposed to be a funny track but the track itself turns out to be an insipid joke and is also embarrassingly the first single taken from the album.

There are songs about relationship problems, NEXT TIME and FOR YOU both shows off the group’s lack of imaginative lyrics on these subjects. Alternatively, the dance influenced SHOPPING is a nonsense happy tune about how a spot of shopping will brighten up and solve everybody’s problems. That might be true but will the BNL write a sequel about how much the next credit card bill is? The mix of accordion and violins on UPSIDE DOWN showcase a fun element that is severely lacking on some of the tracks. The mood slows down on the suicide themed WAR ON DRUGS, which is not as depressing as it sounds.

The album loses its way on tracks such as NEXT TIME, which decides to go off on in a different musical direction, making the BNL seem more smart-assed than they really are. Then there is the country influenced FOR YOU which is just not very good at all. When you come across a couple of enjoyable tracks such as UNFINISHED and SECOND BEST, it is guaranteed to be followed by a couple of below average tracks, TAKE IT OUTSIDE and HAVE YOU SEEN MY LOVE.

The album sounds like a group who cannot decide if they want to write serious songs, funny songs or pop songs, which is what they are well known for. Instead, what has happened is that they have let the quality of some of the songs slip; whether it’s due to wrong production decisions or just lazy song writing, both drag the other decent tracks down. For proof, check out the acoustic version of ANOTHER POSTCARD and weep that the rest of the album was not acoustic.

3 stars