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Barenaked Ladies, "Are Me"

12/05/06 | by Adam | Categories: Music, Reviews

The newest Barenaked Ladies album had a tough job ahead of it. "Gordon" at the beginning of their career set the stakes pretty high. The next two albums ("Maybe You Should Drive", "Born On A Pirate Ship") were -- unfortunately -- forgettable. "Stunt" in 1998 was a return to form with a set of catchy songs, irreverent but not silly. The next two ("Maroon" and "Everything To Everyone") were by no means bad albums, but just didn't grab my interest. There's never been a problem with BNL's songwriting or their musical skills, but somehow it so often passed me by. It was thus with great interest that I listened to "Are Me" to try to figure out if this'd be another good album or it they'd finally be hit by the three-strikes rule.

The opening track is mellow. Oh my, is it mellow. "Adrift" is so so laid back you could happily snooze off to it. It's not dull, just remarkably relaxing.

"Bank Job" opens with the cheesiest casio keyboard line I've heard since I left university, but then moves into traditional BNL area with a great melody and some extremely funny (albeit of the dark humour variation) lyrics: "we all had ski masks, and sawed-off shotguns, but how do you plan for a bank full of nuns?"

"Sound Of Your Voice" is a bit more uptempo with a fairly gung-ho set of guitar lines; I'll probably annoy someone by saying this, but it's got a strong echo of some of the better ELO tunes.

"Easy" is very cool. Very, very, very cool. If it's not a hit, it should be. Great vocals, great strummed guitar, loads of feedback kept in check, pounding beat, snappy chorus. Even if the rest of the album sucked (it doesn't) this would be worth buying it for.

After "Easy", BNL goes mellow again with "Home". Jangly, slow, introspective.

"Bull In A China Shop" knocks the tempo back up and the chorus is pure BNL; there's a nice brass line in this one.

"Everything Had Changed" opens with some unconventional instrumentation: French violin, accordion and banjo. It's a still little mellow but the banjo line keeps it hopping and -- for once -- the accordion actually works. It's one of the better tracks on here.

The wordy "Peterborough And The Kawarthas" is another immaculately produced BNL entry with an unexpected sample of a weather broadcast. I think it's a paean to summer camp.

"Maybe You're Right" has a killer canon for a chorus. Beginning with a typically subtle and simple introduction it concludes with a great soaring instrumental break that pulls it all together.

"Take It Back" is a piss-take on unthinking security and fear-based politics, rather appropriate for the early 21st century. It's wrapped in a lovely tinkling piano tune which juxtaposes the lyrics quite effectively.

"Vanishing" demonstrates that they haven't quite got the mellow out of their system yet. It's a fine song, but not one of the better ones on here.

Next, "Rule The World With Love". Yeah, it's BNL. Complex instrumentation, carefully balanced sounds, good beat, decent chorus, use of one phrase to lead naturally into another, and so on.

The last track is "Wind It Up". It's more of a rocker than most of the album, but you're not going to mistake this for Bryan Adams. There's a sense here that after tightly controlling themselves for the majority of the album they're finally letting loose. I don't know if it's the right track to close the album but I liked it.

The first time I listened to the "Are Me" I only got to the first track before I thought "Oh, re-tread" and went off to other things. The second time I gave it a bit more time and was rewarded by a really good album. It's a bit more cynical than silly but not overly so. As always, the musicianship is superb, there are many excellent and catchy songs and the alternative vocals of Steven Page and Ed Robertson keep it interesting. Recommended.

Next time I review a BNL album I'll really try to avoid the following words: mellow, laid-back, easy-going, relaxed, immaculate, jocular. I skipped a few of them this time which is progress of sorts.



Comment from: Dale [Visitor]  

Interesting - when I picked up the CD back in October I remember Adam saying something to the effect of ‘blech, another BNL cd’. Having different tastes and having enjoyed all BNL albums (I find them all listenable but some are definitely better), I had no qualms about taking the plunge.

Welcome aboard Adam… :D

12/06/06 @ 13:15
Comment from: Adam [Member]  

To my defense, I only heard the first track when you played it initially. It’s not exactly inspiring or groundbreaking.

Welcome to the blog, Dale!

12/06/06 @ 14:22
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