Review Summary: Barenaked Ladies' finest
Nostalgia has the annoying habit of working two ways. Entertainment remembered as a child creates positive memories of said entertainment, and as we grow older, our tastes mature. Suddenly, what we once thought was "awesome" and "breathtaking" (if we even had the ability to characterize media as such at that time) ends up showing how much nostalgia covers up what turns out to be just plain bad entertainment. Other times though, some entertainment we were exposed to as children doesn't deteriorate as our tastes change. Rather, the new perspective on media from our aging allows us to enjoy this material even better than before. Barenaked Ladies, and their album "Maroon," is just such an album.
It really is humbling looking back on this album. This was, by all accounts, my first actual record, and I listened to it religiously. Today, I still do. This is an album that has survived through all my various musical phases, and it has never lost its touch. What the members of Barenaked Ladies present here is an album that is both honest and entertaining at the same time. BNL was always known for its carefree nature and quirky humor in their songs, and that is ever present on "Maroon." With lyrics such as "They can kiss my ring, and kiss my ass," BNL show that even at its silliest the band can still provide good music to accompany the giggles. Beyond just that, though, BNL have the surprising knack of knowing how to pace themselves with their humor. Whereas some bands obnoxiously flaunt their silliness (I'm looking at you, Sum 41...) Barenaked Ladies know just when to throw in the occasional funny lyric and then counterbalance it with either a sobering or dramatic section.
From a technical aspect, this is also where Barenaked Ladies substitute quality over quantity. While later albums such as "Everything to Everyone" would revel in quicker band playing, most of "Maroon" follows a mid tempo range with variations on it. The opening two tracks, "Too Little Too Late" and "Never Do Anything," establish a quick-tempo beginning that exaggerates the sudden slowness of the famous "Pinch Me." Rather than coming across as abrupt, the shift shows a musical cohesiveness that the Barenaked Ladies mastered on this album.
Vocalists Steven Page and Ed Robertson's alternating lead vocals between songs is one of the highlights of the Barenaked Ladies in general and especially this album. Steve's lower bari sound and Ed's mid tenor range creates a unique vocal variety that gives songs like opening "Too Little Too Late" a bit of a kick while "Falling for the First Time's" use of Ed's voice gives it that slight energetic sound that makes the clever puns in the song entertaining rather than irritating. Along with that, the various sections where Page and Robertson mix their vocals i.e. "Baby Seat" and "Go Home" creates a vocal harmonization that excites the listeners, especially as the other band members climax with these sections as well.
The rest of the band, Jim Creegan, Tyler Stewart, and Kevin Hearn, play their instruments to perfectly accompany the vocal dynamic of the band. Tyler's drumming can alternate between keeping a simple beat on songs such as "Conventioneers" whereas "Helicopters" (which is probably one of Tyler's best BNL songs ever) has him incorporating a brush technique that simulates the sounds of helicopters, a perfect backdrop for Page's heartfelt sung lyrics on the Iraq War. The bass on this album is surprisingly used to great effect, either to give the band that extra kick up on the quicker up beat songs or just there in the back to accentuate the beat of the slower songs, notably so on "Conventioneers." To top it all off, Kevin Hearn's use of the keyboard is always used subtly, but its presence there gives the album that final touch that pushes "Maroon" from good to phenomenal, especially so on "Off the Hook" and "Sell Sell Sell."
The best aspect of the album as a whole, however, is just how musically diverse it is. Just as Led Zeppelin's "Houses of the Holy" mixes various genres to create a multi-faceted album, BNL mix various sounds within the alternative rock genre to establish a wholly original sound. Switching from quick, catchy songs like "Humor of the Situation" to slower emotional songs like "Helicopters," "Maroon" is an album that gives something for everyone, and quite literally so.