Review Summary: Barenaked Ladies's Everything to Everyone
By 2003 Barenaked Ladies still had the best band name in the business but had pretty much become a bit of an afterthought. It’s not that they were not good anymore or not popular, considering their previous two albums are their most popular, it’s that their star didn't quite shine as bright as it used too. So when Everything to Everyone came out it would prove to be a very important album in determining if BNL would manage to remain on the fringes of the mainstream pop scene.
Everything to Everyone is pretty much what you what have come to aspect from BNL at the time. Actually it’s pretty much a carbon copy of Maroon at parts, and although not as well rounded and enjoyable as the previous album, it is still an easy album to like. The album sounds familiar, it sounds like BNL; and sadly it’s hard to decide whether that is a positive or a negative aspect of the album.
‘Another Postcard’, the lead single, could have well been called ‘Pinch Me V.2’ or ‘One Week V.3’, not because it sounds particularly similar to them (or anywhere as good), but because it’s pretty clear that it was an attempt by the record company to recreate the reception that those previous tracks received. From the rap verses to the funny and somewhat catchy chorus, ‘Another Postcard’ is not really a bad track, just one that seems to indicate a fear of moving forward.
Looking beyond the uninspired single, the rest of the album does have quite a few gems hidden among the stones. Take opening track ‘Celebrity’, a whimsical narration on a celebrity’s life which features some lovely use of a keyboard and guitar riffs. Or the insanely catchy rocker ‘Maybe Katie’, which takes a look at settling down, or ‘Testing 1,2,3’ , a song that compares the joy of the present to the past, with its great chorus and simple rock beat. There is really quite a lot to love on this album.
‘War on Drugs’ and ‘Upside Down’ are also among the best songs the band have released; the latter being a synth rocker and literary comedy juggernaut about a person who refuses to risk changing his life. Its energetic, catchy and is also one of the only tracks on the album that truly has an identity, it is instantly identifiable. ‘War on Drugs’ is a slow piano ballad that deals with suicide. It’s not as perfect as ‘Call and Answer’, and lacks subtlety, but is still a beautifully orchestrated track that builds momentum and intensity as it goes on. It could easily be one of the best suicide songs ever written, never underestimating the misery that people in such a state are going through, but at the same time remaining hopeful. Steve Page is an underrated and overlooked singer/songwriter, as is Robertson, but ‘War on Drugs’ shows how good he truly can be on both fronts.
The main problem with Everything to Everyone is not that it’s ever truly poor, but simply because it never truly sounds like the band is pushing their own limits. ‘Take it Outside’ is a pleasant enough rocker about a coward but it isn’t anything that has already been done better on tracks like ‘Who Needs Sleep?’ and ‘Have You Seen My Love’ is a cute enough closer, but can it really stand alongside ‘Crazy’ and ‘Tonight is the Night’? No I didn’t think so.