After BNL broke through with their multi-platinum Stunt
, they were left with the daunting task of recording a respectable follow up. Maroon
, while not the commercial success that Stunt
was, certainly meets that criterium musically, as the Barenaked Ladies begin to move out of faux techno and gimmick songs into more mature and complex alternative pop/rock.
The album opens with "Too Little, Too Late," a catchy tune about quarreling lovers. The melody is simple and poppy (in a good way) like BNL's former hit "It's All Been Done." Instead of humorous pop culture references, however, the lyrics are a little more personal, with BNL's trademark clever wordplay turned inward. "Never Do Anything" is a little different, with a more electronica feel, and a return to sardonic humor. In this ode to a wasted life, Steven Page sings "I could be that, but soon you'll see that I will never do anything." Upbeat rhythms and vocals indicate the couch-potato's acceptance of his fate, while some of the lyrics seem angry at a world that passed him by.
"Pinch Me," probably the most popular single off of Maroon
, is arguably the best song on the album, and certainly showcases bassist Jim Creegan at his finest. A song carried by sparse guitar and an impressive bass line throughout, Ed Robertson's introspective and clever lyrics are almost, but not quite, overshadowed. After the mellow acoustics of "Pinch Me," BNL kicks back to their post-grunge roots with "Go Home," a comparitively rocking song from a best friend to a guy about to throw away a relationship. A good change of pace, "Go Home" is musically simple, but appealing, like a slightly mellowed Ramones song.
After four tracks of heartbreak, introspection, and outside meddling in others' relationships, BNL's romantic side comes roaring in on "Falling For the First Time." A song that everyone can relate to, a catchy melody wonderfully compliments lyrics about one man's perceived inadequacy in the face of love, and his enjoyment of the experience - my favorite track, if not the most musically challenging, on the album. After after the bouncy romanticism of "Falling," "Conventioneers" is a well-calculated shock to the system. A ballad until the last verse, it chronicles a one night stand between co-workers that ends in embarassment and confusion. Well written and perfectly delivered by Steven Page, the song builds up an expectation of a burgeoning relationship, only to crash into a desire to be "transferred out of state."
"Sell, Sell, Sell" is this albums "One Week," although not as catchy as that mega-hit. A poke by Canadians at American commercialism, loaded with pop-culture references, it's an enjoyable listen but heavier than you'd expect at first. The song is a little dated (although the references to the Iraq war are again relevant), so a late-90's pop-culture buff would enjoy it more than a music conniseur. From social commentary, BNL comes back to form with more sarcasm and wordplay in "Humour of the Situation," a tale of a dysfunctional relationship that seems to belong in a romantic comedy. Catchy but slightly mean-spirited and silly, it's an enjoyable listen that loses some fun after too many spins.
"Baby Seat" again brings the level down, as a blues-inspired riff ties together cryptic lyrics and a cymbal-tapping chorus. Musically, it's probably one of the best tracks on the album, but it's not as catchy as some other tracks so it takes a few listens to really enjoy. What can be said about "Off the Hook"? A friend advising her to dump her crooked lover, set to a beat that sounds like "Billie Jean" and sparse instrumentation - enough said. A good track, though. "Helicopters" might be the best track on the album. A Bob Dylan-inspired sort-of protest song, the acoustic and electric guitars compliment each other well while an excellent drum line holds it all together. The lyrics aren't funny, but they're not supposed to be, and this song proves beyond a doubt that the Barenaked Ladies can be serious. Then they drop back into an old standard of humor in the face of tragedy with "Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Weel." The title says it all - a faux-ballad sung in the first person by a driver who is dying after falling asleep while driving and has a sense of humor about it.
is one of those albums that is more than just a sum of it's parts. Even if individual songs don't really jump out like some of the singles on Stunt
, the album as a whole is an excellent listen which can fit any mood with the right song.