Thursday, January 3, 2013

Maybe For The Die-hards, Shoebox Is Too Short For The Casual Fans Of The Barenaked Ladies

The Good: Fun, Well-written songs, Decent vocals
The Bad: Only four tracks, two of which are essentially the same
The Basics: While fun and easy to listen to, this four-track disc is not strong enough to recommend.

As my new Artist Of The Month, I'm entering a phase where I've got a lot of Barenaked Ladies material and I'm going through and listening to it and reviewing it. The thing I already like about the group is their quirky sense of humor. The group seems to have a sense of humor about itself that allows it to not take itself too seriously, so they have a generally lighthearted sound and they are fun to listen to, no matter what it is they are actually singing about.

The Shoebox E.P. is where I'm starting my odyssey, as it is the earliest material I have gotten my hands on thus far. The four-track disc is comprised of three songs, only one of which is truly unique to this disc. The listing includes "Shoe Box" - both the radio and album versions, "Trust Me" (which appears to be only available on this disc), and the demo version of "If I Had $1,000,000."

Here's the thing, because it's difficult to rate singles (which is essentially what this is); this is probably highly sought after by collectors or die hard fans, but it's impossible to recommend to those who aren't obsessive about the Barenaked Ladies. The three songs (the two versions of "Shoe Box" are very similar and lyrically identical) are well written, fun and good. But they are mostly available elsewhere (in fact both "Shoe Box" and "If I Had $1,000,000" are on their "Greatest Hits") and the value for the purchase is greater with more material there.

That said, "Shoe Box" is a decent song. The Barenaked Ladies sing about disillusionment and relics we keep from our youth and they do it quite well, opening with the note the narrator finds from the woman he's in a relationship with. This spawns the idea to " . . . crumple the note and save it to put inside / My shoe box / Shoe box of lies . . ." The song has some shaky rhymes, like "From my first little fib, when I still wore a bib." Generally the song sounds upbeat and is pure pop and masks the potential sadness of keeping all one's memories under one's bed with an upbeat guitar and drum tune.

The second track doesn't even try to be anything more than tongue in cheek. "Trust Me" is an upbeat warning for the listener to avoid the singer, with his honest declaration, "Trust me to let you down / My finger's crossed while my lips are pursed . . ." It's funny, too, "The holy trinity's there in your purse / A condom, obsession and mace. . ." The vocals are strong and it's what pushes the EP into "average" territory, if not a "recommend."

And "If I Had $1,000,000" comes next in a fun demo version. There is wonderful, spontaneous-sounding banter in the version on the Shoebox EP about things like Kraft dinners. I can imagine hearing the raw form of the song would be quite a thrill to the obsessive fans, much the way the demo version of Oasis' "Some Might Say" thrills those of us who are fans of Oasis and found the Japanese single.

Ultimately, though, this is a disc that clocks in at 12:48 and two of the tracks are so similar as to be annoying upon constant replaying. I like the Barenaked Ladies for their fun, light pop sound, but the Shoebox E.P. is too esoteric for the casual listener.

The best song is "Trust Me," the album mix of "Shoe Box" didn't grab me so much.

For other Barenaked Ladies works, please visit my reviews of:
Rock Spectacle
Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991 – 2001


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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