I originally wrote the main body of this about a year ago for the old site.I have, however, added in some more stuff than I had before.
Andy Creegan -- Piano/percussion/vocals/shaker
Jim Creegan -- bass/vocals/shaker
Steven Page -- vocals/guitar/shaker
Ed Robertson -- Guitar/vocals/shaker
Tyler Stewart -- drums/vocals/shaker
Michael Philip Wojewoda -- production/stupid keyboard bass, and yes - shaker
Far underappreciated here at mx, the Barenaked Ladies is a pop-rock outfit from Canada. They blend accessible pop hooks with a goofy sense of humor that is truly unique. They can play in any style from acoustic folk to Latin to country to hard alternative rock. Part of their strength lies in the incredible musicianship found in the band. They can be silly and turn to extremely serious songs very quickly. Another interesting thing they do is the way in which they switch vocalists from the deep, throaty Steven Page to the light, Delicate Ed Robertson. For fans of music that doesn't take itself too seriously yet still has excellent instrumentation, Gordon
is the perfect album.
This is by far my favourite Barenaked Ladies album. The Ladies are introduced by their energetic, sometimes quite silly turn on pop-rock. From Andy Creegan's jazzy piano to his brother Jim's virtuosic basslines, Ed Robertson't masterful guitar work, and Tyler Stewart's incredible drumming, this band has an incredible amount of musical talent showcased in fifteen songs. Even the liner notes have the Ladies' unique sense of humor. On a song (The King of Bedside Manor) that features shaker, everyone is listed as having played the shaker. On "Grade 9," they credit their producer as having played the 'stupid keyboard bass.' Even the comments about the pictures of the band are absolutely hilarious. Though serious at parts, the unique sense of humor of the band is more evident on this album than any others...
-- And it starts. A lazy, muted trumpet line introduces vocal harmonies. The song starts as a slow shuffle, then builds to a jazzy bridge and all-out onslaught of the entire band. It's words describe being disenchanted by city life. They do a good job, too.
-- Latin Percussion and a horn section. What else could you want? How about building a small radio transmitter and using it to make the intro of your song? Very poppy sounding, this song is a slightly humorous bit about a man who wants to reunite with his high school love - though she won't. Tastefully done, though there is much better to come...
-- Wow. This is an amazingly funny look back on the dreaded freshman year of high school. Everyone sings about their woes, such as missing "Stairway to Heaven" at the school dance. But the best part about this song is the musicianship. Again, this song starts on an upbeat, poppy note. The drum fills are perfect. The syncopated guitar and walking bass line mesh fantastically. You hear an allusion to Rush's "Tom Sawyer," and you think, 'cool.' Then you hear Vince Guraldi's "Lynus and Lucy" (Peanuts theme) modulate up a few steps. This melds fluidly into the main line of Rush's "Spirit of the Radio" (Played, ironically, on an acoustic guitar). At this point, you know you have an amazing record on your hands. Amazing pop sensibilities and hilarious words make this song amazing.
-- Somber and melancholy, the mood changes slightly after "Grade 9." The song starts off with just an arpeggiated acoustic guitar ans Steven's vocals. After the chorus, everyone else joins in for one of the Ladies' most famous songs. Interestingly enough, Andy opts to play the conga drums instead of the piano that permeates the more famous live version. It's still an excellent song, with most of the molody coming from Jim's bass (I love him). In the end, Jim proves his power with a climactic bass solo while everyone else builds to a powerful crescendo. Then, one must be reminded that he plays a double bass the entire album.
Be my Yoko Ono
-- Simply done with four chords, this is a silly skiffle song that pokes fun at the relationship between John Lennon and Yoko Ono. As always, there is some homor evident (I know when I say this/I may be sepping on pins and needles/But I don't like all these people slacking her/For breaking up the Beatles). One must be also truly impressed by Ed's impersonation of her singing during the bridge. While not the strongest song, instrumentation is adequate, and the humor makes it a worthwhile listen.
Wrap Your Arms Around Me
-- This is an acoustic ballad sung by Ed. It's also quite possibly the most serious song on the album. Vocal harmonies are excellent throughout, and by the end, everything rises to an extremely high emotional level as the song takes on an almost bluegrass style.
What a Good Boy
-- Steven says that this song is about an idealistic 21-year-old's views on gender roles; there are, however, many more interpretations the song could take. Very slow and emotional, the piano and bass stick out the most on this song. There is, however, a nice, soft repeating acoustic guitar line that runs over the top of the melody towards the middle of the song. In my opinion, it sounds very similar to "Call and Answer" from Stunt
The King of Bedside Manor
-- This is about an aging ladies' man. The band goes crazy with the shaker on here (six people are listed as having played it). Possibly the most hyperactive bluegrass-stomper you'll ever hear on a pop record. The end features a sudden change as Ed yells out, "Styx!" Then, they go into the chorus of Mr. Roboto (In the Barenaked Ladies style, though), Jim does his own crazy bass thing, while Steven and Ed yell until they're blue in the face. Well done, boys.
-- Andy shines on this one. His Latin style piano is amazing. In addition to the piano, the Latin style drums add further depth to the song. The great hook of the piano and percussion working together makes this one of the best tracks on here. The verses take a nice, mellow turn that sounds almost like a tango. Meanwhile, Steven croons as if he were an aging pop singer, making fun of the concept of the box-set. The parts where he lists the function of the different disks are utter hilarity (And yet oh, so true).
I Love You
-- One of the Ladies' signature silly love songs. They sing about loving fishsticks, soup, and a girl. Really, they do. Most of this song has a nice, smooth jazz feel with Jim doing his signature walking bass lines throughout. During the bridge, Andy lets loose with some nice scat vocals that add an interesting turn to the usual pop stuff going on here.
New Kid (On the Block)
-- This is the BNL tribute to boy bands. Interestingly, they tell the story from the point of view of one of the new kids on the block. The song picks up right from the very beginning as a relatively easygoing, yet almost sinister rocker. Jim has yet another nice solo towards the end; the interlude seems kind of spaced out like a Rush song would be without blaring synths and lasers.
Blame it on Me
-- This is a pretty mellow song. In lieu of the standard drumset, there are different percussion instruments used. The song is almost ballad-like in its feel, and the piano once again blends in nicely with the mellow feel the percussion lays down.
-- This is a pretty serious anti-war song. It goes without percussion for much of the song, then a snare drum comes in, as if to imitate an army going to battle back in the old days. Essentially, this song has the feel of a march, though the vocal harmonies are quite prominent towards the end.
If I Had $1000000
-- Who hasn't heard this one? An easy-going acoustic song, this was the single that put the BNL on the map. What can beat bantering back and forth about macaroni, pre-wrapped sausages, and dijon ketchup? This is one of the best examples of how the BNL utilizes the dual vocalist technique. The live version is also worth looking for, too.
-- This one starts off with a nice bassline and guitar. Ed's vocal style is very choppy, fitting in with the mood very well. At the climax of the song, it explodes into another BNL bluegrass stomper. Towards the end is a wild (by BNL standards) jam session. Then you hear some chords from "Hello City" to end the song. However, there's also a bit of a secret track with some studio banter, what appears to be an attempt to incorporate "Live or Let Die" into "Grade 9," and some outtakes from "$1000000."
This album showcases the musical ability and humor that make the BNL one of my favourite all-time bands. I love the dual-vocalist approach, and they also showcase the ability to write serious songs. As far as pop records go, this is a must-have classic. It proves that not all pop music has to be the premanufactured stuff we see on TV today. This album may not have any twenty minute guitar solos, and it may not make you ponder your mortality, but it will be one of the most entertaining, enjoyable listens you will ever have with a pop record.