Review Summary: BNL's best album since [I]Stunt[/I]--a triumph of pop rock!
With their first new album in three years (not counting the admittedly entertaining stopgap Barenaked for the Holidays
), and closing in on a decade since their last major hit, the Barenaked Ladies would seem to have something to prove with their latest, Barenaked Ladies Are Me
. Thankfully, the Canadian quintet don't try too hard, and they don't attempt a drastic makeover, as seems to be the fad among pop bands today (see the Killers or My Chemical Romance). Instead, BNL simply turns in their best album since 1998's Stunt
, and in the process prove that straightforward pop rock still has a place in modern rock music, and it can still provide a wonderful listening experience.
and Everything to Everyone
were very cohesive albums with no obviously stand-out singles, Are Me
manages to provide both without resorting to gimmicky concept album trappings. Which is not to say that the album is lacking a through-theme: this is very much a product of a mature band, one that has been making music for 16 years, and it shows. What's more, it's a product of the band as a whole, as lead songwriters Steven Page and Ed Robertson shine, but also make way for three tunes penned exclusively by keyboardist Kevin Hearn, and one by bassist Jim Creegan. In fact, Creegan's "Peterborough and the Kawarthas," a heartfelt ode to a son in joint custody, is one of the best tracks on the album, and Creegan's rare lead vocal is revelatory for the accomplished bass player. And two of Hearn's tunes ("Sound of Your Voice" and first single "Easy") anchor an opening run of eight top-notch pop songs, ranging from the typical BNL comedy number "Bank Job" to "Home," a ballad that recalls a BNL classic, "Call and Answer."
The album tails off a bit at the end, but the closing songs only seem weak because of the sparkling songcraft that preceded them. As a whole, Barenaked Ladies Are Me
is simply the best pop rock album this year, and one of BNL's best in their long career. Do I smell eight years between Top Ten hits?