Saturday, December 29, 2012

Humor Through The Title; There Is No "Disc Two" Yet. Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991 – 2001 By Barenaked Ladies!

The Good: Solid singles, Good voice, Fun lyrics, Generally good music
The Bad: Some of the band's choices of songs
The Basics: Well-written and produced, Disc One provides a popular introduction and retrospective for one of the quirkiest bands producing music today.

To most Americans, Barenaked Ladies are a one-hit wonder ("One Week" being the defining hit), so it might seem silly that they have released Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991 - 2001. Then again, Alien Sex Fiend have multiple greatest hits albums and I've never even heard a song by them. At least Barenaked Ladies had the one number one. But then, those who are fans of Barenaked Ladies would note that they're not one-hit wonders. Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991 - 2001 seems to bolster that argument by culling a decade worth of musical work and supplying two new tracks.

With nineteen tracks, Disc One is a celebration of how fun rock and roll can be. The majority of the songs are upbeat tracks that explore love, fighting in relationships, dreaming, affairs with older women and just being depressed. Accompanied by extensive notes on each song by co-writer Steven Page, the disc is a reminder that pop-rock does not have to sound heavy even if it is singing about breaking up. The new track "Thanks That Was Fun" is written like a dirge with an upswing in the tempo, making one think it is being sung by inebriated pirates while burying their friends at sea.

Disc One contains many recognizable favorites, like "The Old Apartment," "One Week," "Pinch Me," "If I Had $1,000,000," and "It's All Been Done." It also contains singles that were more popular in Canada, like "Shoebox," "Enid," "Lovers In A Dangerous Time," and "Alternative Girlfriend." The favorite "Brian Wilson" is presented in a live recording, so those who like any of the studio versions will find that track . . . different. Personally, there are studio versions of this song I liked better than this one.

For those not familiar with Barenaked Ladies, Disc One is a fine place to start. The disc illustrates the enthusiastic sound the quintet creates using guitar, drums, bass, and keyboards (primarily). The sound is usually an upbeat rock and roll sound and the band creates tunes that are hummable and catchy. One need only think of the hypnotic rhythms of the radio-friendly "Pinch Me" to bring the sound of the band to the ear. "One Week" is probably the hardest rock the group gets on Disc One and there is very little that is slower than the folky-"If I Had $1,000,000."

Generally, the band manages to take complex lyrics and make them sound good. So, for example, while "The Old Apartment" could well be a ballad with lyrics like "Broke into the old apartment / This is where we used to live / Broken glass, broke and hungry, broken hearts and broken bones / This is where we used to live . . . I want them back . . ." it is presented with an upbeat tempo that works in defiance to the lyrics.

Barenaked Ladies is a group that thrives on irony. From singing about waiting to make up while fighting with a loved one ("One Week") to giving up on art ("It's All Been Done") to singing about getting caught in lies ("Shoebox"), the group has a sense of humor and has filled a fairly unique niche in pop-rock. Far more commercially successful than their contemporaries like They Might Be Giants (for a review of their first great anthology, check out my review here!) and Crash Test Dummies (for their masterpiece God Shuffled His Feet check out the review here!), Barenaked Ladies reach those who are disillusioned with the state of pop-rock today and those sick of hearing only straightforward songs about love or loss.

Barenaked Ladies and Disc One is not for those who do not have a sense of humor about what pop-rock can be. It's also not for people who are unlikely to want to spend more money on c.d.s. Disc One is certainly a worthwhile disc on its own, but it is likely to inspire the listener to buy either Stunt or Maroon.

On its own, though Disc One is fun and adequate, but the quality of the vocals - which might surprise those who have only heard "One Week" - is enough to encourage most anyone to pick up another album for a spin.

The best track is "One Week," the low point is the very early "Enid."

For other Barenaked Ladies works, please visit my reviews of:
Rock Spectacle


Check out how this album stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Music Review Index Page where albums and singles are organized from best to worst!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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