The Barenaked Ladies were probably driven by the desire to put a totally goofy name on the marquee to attract a lot of walk-in traffic. Imagine the expression on some sailor's face when he walked into a club expecting nudity and got five fully clothed musicians. Of course, with a name like that they weren't going to win any awards or get inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. That thought likely never crossed their minds. BNL did get a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance in '98, but lost. The Grammy powers weren't ever going to allow BNL to have one of those little statues. Not with that appellation. To have some low-rent actor shout "Barenaked Ladies" from the podium of the nationally televised program made the Grammy faithful cringe. Even with an audience in tuxes, where's the dignity? No Grammy for them. Then again, just being nominated is reward enough. Or at least that's what the losers have been claiming.
You could tell where Barenaked Ladies were coming from. Canada . Forming in the late '80s, BNL toured extensively playing their quirky songs. In the early '90s, they found themselves featured on The Coneheads soundtrack ("Fight The Power") and the Friends soundtrack ("Shoe Box").
Barenaked Ladies left cult-status with the "Stunt" CD. It contained two classics; the Trip-Hop/Rock "One Week" and the retro "It's All Been Done Before." "One Week," was a love song with a ton of pop culture references ranging from Leanne Rimes to the "The X-Files." "It's All Been Done," aside from a great vocal hook, nailed a musician's dilemma. The song dealt with trying to be creative and getting your efforts shrugged off. On '00 release "Maroon," the humor was still there, just a little deeper. The group skewered Hollywood ("Sell, Sell, Sell") and war ("Helicopters") while still managing to deliver the off-the-wall lines fans had come to expect.
"Everything To Everyone" landed in '03 with the comical lead-off single "Another Postcard." The group showed a more serious and sedate side with their '06 effort "Barenaked Ladies Are Me."
Sometimes the timing can be horribly off. In mid-08, the group released a collection of songs for children called "Snacktime!" (an '08 Juno Award Winning Children's Album). But just a couple months later, Steven Page was arrested for cocaine possession. As a result the group cancelled their Disney Music Block Party concerts. But that wasn't the end of it. The announcement came in February, '09, that Page had left the band to pursue a solo musical career and "theatrical opportunities."
Now a quartet, BNL returned to the studio to record "All In Good Time," their first post-Page effort. The album, which featured the single "You Run Away", dropped in March, '10.
Barenaked Ladies went through a repackaging phase with "Hits From Yesterday & The Day Before" and "Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before," a collection of rarities and never-before-heard songs.
Following the inaugural Last Summer On Earth tour it was back to the studio to record their 11th studio album, "Grinning Streak." The set sold 26,000 copies in its debut week to hold the #10 slot on the Billboard 200. The '13 set was supported by the second Last Summer On Earth tour.
1994 Maybe You Should Drive
1996 Born On A Pirate Ship
1996 Rock Spectacle
2003 Everything To Everyone
2004 Barenaked For The Holidays
2006 Barenaked Ladies Are Me
2007 Barenaked Ladies Are Men
2010 All In Good Time
2012 Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before
2013 Grinning Streak
Stunt" arriving in '98 with "One Week" and "It's All Been Done" is Barenaked Ladies most commercially successful CD. It's not their best but it's close. "Gordon" has that honor with "Brian Wilson," "New Kid On The Block" and "Boxed Set." The '96 release "Born On A Pirate Ship" containing "Shoe Box" is also highly recommended. Combining wit and Rock is a difficult proposition, but they pull it off. "Rock Spectacle" is a very good live album. "Maroon" with "Too Little Too Late" is not as instantly accessible as "Stunt," (which probably left their newfound fans disappointed) but there's sharp lyrical bite as the band tones down (just a notch) its inherent goofiness.
'03 release "Everything To Everyone" references the usual BNL topics. The set opens with the somber yet biting "Celebrity" ("Call me a zero but I'm gonna be a hero, I'll be incorporated, I'll be imitated"). A rhythm guitar and sharp vocal harmonies provide the backdrop as the song skewers fame and fortune. "Another Postcard" was an attempt to generate an uptempo, catchy pop hit like "One Week." But the CD's highpoint is "Shopping" where the soothing vocals extol the "virtues" of rampant consumerism ("everything's gonna be all right when you go shopping").
Seems BNL is channeling the acoustic side of fellow Canadian Neil Young on "Barenaked Ladies Are Me." There are clever story-songs told from unconventional viewpoints, like a driver on a holdup ("Bank Job") but there's no real joyous lunacy. And Neil handles sincerity so much better. With songs like "Easy," it almost sounds like the Barenaked Ladies are trying to grow up. Yikes!
As it stands, "Rule The World With Love" has a nice '60s idealistic feeling while BNL rouse themselves to produce "Wind It Up" and the jangling "Bull In A China Shop."
In the early '70s, bands took their musical influences, Folk, Country or even Jazz, and melded them with Paul McCartney melodic sensibilities. Nice idea but unfortunately there is only one McCartney and everyone else came off sounding like America. There was nothing particularly bad. It was just a bit bland. Who would have suspected that "All In Good Time" would suffer the same fate? It's a collection of nice songs with good arrangements but not much fun. Only "Four Seconds" attempts the group's trademark whacky humor. BNL uses Young again as an inspiration for "Jerome," but they lose the edge. "The Love We're In" sounds like a Timothy B. Schmit song The Eagles passed on in favor of "I Can't Tell You Why" while closer "Watching The Northern Lights" could pass for an Eagles album track.
"Grinning Streak," the group's second set without Page, pretty much finds a comfortable, friendly, mid-tempo groove and stays put. Their pop chops show up on "Boomerang," a very catchy tune, and "Did I Say That Out Loud?" "Odds are" is a low-key stab at a "One Week" knock off. Of course, it's positive. "Odds are we will be all right." No doubt.