Barenaked Ladies

Stunt (1998)

Thoughts Before Listening

Scott

Before a (relatively) angry Canadian mob shows up at our collective doors wielding hockey sticks and citronella torches, know this – in Canada the Barenaked Ladies are not one hit wonders. They are a national treasure. But, and this is a critically important but, they only ever hit the Top 10 once in the good ole’ US of A. This is important because to meet our review criteria, a band must have a single Top 10 hit in Canada and/or the US. With that out of the way, on to our review of the ultra obscure one hit wonder – the Barenaked Ladies.

The one hit, “One Week”, not only cracked the Top 10, but ended up hitting #1 on the Hot 100 in the US. It also served to launch BNL back into the Canadian musical spotlight, from which they’d been slowly drifting since their stellar debut, Gordon. Does Stunt recapture the brilliance of their debut? Let’s dive in. 

Weh-Ming

I am really looking forward to this. I haven’t listened to this album in years, but I remember hearing it a lot. I didn’t used to own music (other than my “Weird Al” cassettes), so I was pretty dependent upon everyone else. It’s not the only reason why I used to hang out with Scott, but it didn’t hurt.

Barenaked Ladies is the first time we’ve reviewed a band that I know is NOT an OHW (I assumed Sinead wasn’t). Barenaked Ladies were a great band with a great sense of humour in a world with popular music that took itself too seriously. I think there’s going to be some great songs on here (cause I remember there are). 


Other Songs of Note

The icing on the cake

Call and Answer” – 10 points

Scott (5 points)

Great song writing. Earnest, heartfelt lyrics, clearly borne of experience. I think that this is my favourite Barenaked Ladies mode. Their debut was packed with fun, sometimes goofy songs that made them famous, and yet my clear favorite on that album was “What a Good Boy”. It’s a serious, powerful look at gender roles and societal expectations and one hell of a great song. 

There’s something about funny people doing serious work, playing against type that seems to be especially effective. Consider Robin Williams, Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey as examples. They’ve all made careers of being funny-men, but my favourite works of theirs are their dramatic roles – Awakenings, Punch Drunk Love, and Eternal Sunshine respectively.

Weh-Ming (5 points)

Right here… in the feels. I love this song. I have probably listened to this song and “It’s All Been Done” back to back a thousand times. One of my all time favorite BNL tracks. I think that’s about all I need to say about that.


It’s All Been Done” – 8 points

Scott (4 points)

Love this one. It’s a fun song with a great melody and it makes me happy. It even has a traditional guitar solo! Now, Weh-Ming has come out in the past stating that at times he can’t stand songs that repeat the same lines over and over, but I’m hoping he can see past it for this gem. Sure they say “It’s all been done” 18 times in less than three and a half minutes, but I still love it. Hopefully he will enjoy it because it’s repetition in the service of a happy song. 

Weh-Ming (4 points)

I love this song. Lovers reincarnating and meeting again and again through time, but still having to work to keep the love alive. Catchy tune, great chorus, and just makes me happy.

As for the repetition, while I have repeatedly said that I do not care for repetition, there is a time and place for the repetition of lines when said repetition carries and enhances the song and not just repetition for the purpose of padding your track.


Light Up My Room” – 4 points

Scott (3 points)

Interesting mid-tempo feelgood song with very curious lyrical content. They impressively craft a beautiful song set against industrial sprawl.

Weh-Ming (1 point)

Classic BNL – take something as potentially depressing as a house that sits under high power lines and turn it into something romantic and nostalgic. A good song.


Never Is Enough” – 3 points

WEH-MING (2 points)

I love this song. It’s not an anthem of an underachiever, it’s a celebration of not wanting to do the things that you had to do to do things that you don’t want to do! Also, there was a time that I felt that it was picking on Wendy’s unnecessarily, but they got rid of the pitas and the breadstick and then they changed the recipes and the fries… I never forgave you Wendy’s.

SCOTT (1 point)

Clever premise. Ed lists off a litany of typical growing-up experiences that he never experienced and had no desire to. It taps into the goofy energy that propelled them to home-and-native-land fame with “If I Had $1000000” roughly thirty years (*cough cough cough*) ago.

What we would put on our personal mixtapes

I’ll Be That Girl

Scott (2 points)

So last week we reviewed White Town’s Women In Technology and a lot of that album is a man bemoaning a woman’s lack of interest in him and it is intolerable. This song is essentially the same thing, but done with wit and nuance and style.

Weh-Ming’s Comment

I’ll be honest, I never got this song. It’s always way too depressing and isn’t as…hopeful as other BNL songs? I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying it’s White Town-esque, but it is certainly in that area.


When You Dream

Weh-Ming (3 points)

…I don’t think I’ve listened to this song since becoming a father. I just remember it being kind of a spacy song at the end of the album, and now… oof, it hits different that’s for sure.

Scott’S Comment

Just kind of a spacy song at the end of the album.


Final Thoughts

Scott

Is this Gordon? No, no it’s not. But that really is not a fair question – not only is Gordon a career-defining album, jam-packed with some truly amazing songs, but it came out in the years where music was imprinting itself on my brain the way it just can’t anymore. Taken on its own merits, Stunt has some great stuff on it. There’s a bit of filler and not everything lands for me, but when they write a killer song, they write a killer song.

As far into their careers as this album falls, they are insanely in sync as a band. Musicianship is top notch, as years of extended touring has really sharpened them. Incidentally, I’ve been lucky enough to see them perform live twice – they are born entertainers. It should also be noted that this album was released well before Steven Page’s exit from the band in 2009. I mention this only because Steven and Ed share lead vocal duties here, and their harmonies are, as always, wonderful.

I really think these kids are going to be able to make a career out of this music thing.

Weh-Ming

This is great, but it’s not my favorite Barenaked Ladies album. I was one of the unfortunate Canadians to realize that I was a fan of their music until it was too late for me to see them in concert. Sad face.

I listen to the BNL Greatest Hits album all the time, so it was nice to go back and listen to the source again. I had forgotten about most of these tunes, so it was sort of like listening to them for the first time. 

BNL is not a One Hit Wonder and the rest of the world needs to recognize that and I wish they would get back together and I’m going to listen to Gordon again.


Yeah But What Else

Scott

Down the Rabbit Hole (Additional listening inspired by this week’s review.)

Barenaked Ladies – “What a Good Boy” – From their debut Gordon, and likely my favourite of their songs. It starts small and poignant, it gets big and powerful. It’s a delight that is as good now as it was the day it was released.

Barenaked Ladies – “Brian Wilson” – Another killer track off of their first album. It’s just so good.

Barenaked Ladies – “Enid” – See my notes for “Brian Wilson”. 

Barenaked Ladies – “Hello City” – Even though they’re kind of slagging Halifax, my years living there make all the bar / street references land. Oh, and it’s a really good song.

Barenaked Ladies – “If I Had $1000000” – The goofy song that really propelled them into the Canadian consciousness. It’s still super-fun, after all of this time.

Barenaked Ladies – “Pinch Me” – Their most successful single off of the album after this one! Oh, and it’s a really good song. Surprise! 

Weh-Ming

FINALLY.

“Weird Al” parodied “One Week” on his Poodle Hat (2003) in the song “Jerry Springer”. While he is most known for his food songs (“Eat It”, “Spam”, “My Bologna”,etc), Al has just as many – if not more – TV related songs that go back just as far (“Bedrock Anthem”, “Frank’s 2000 Inch TV”, “Cable TV”, etc). Al loves his TV.

The ridiculousness of talk shows had already begun when his first, and to date only, movie UHF was released in 1989. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. Michael Richards and Fran Drescher are great in “before they were famous” roles. In the movie, “Weird Al” plays George Newman, a down on his luck guy with big dreams who inherits a UHF TV station. One of the shows he produces/stars in is a talk show that ends in a brawl and with him getting hurt, parodying the infamous Geraldo Rivera incident. It’s good family fun. 

Is “Jerry Springer” a good parody? Yes, it is. The frenetic pace of the original song with staccato lyrics… it really works considering the subject of the song. How many times did we watch Jerry Springer and say “Wait, what did she say?”. And while Al sings about the most ridiculous scenarios, you can’t help but think “was that real or did he make that up?”

It’s been one week since we got to see

Cheatin’ lovers and cousins that marry

Five days since they had the show

With the hermaphrodite, the slut and the crack ho

Three days since we heard the tale

About the guy who learned his woman was a she-male

Yesterday it occurred to me

That I’ve been watchin’ a bit too much Jerry Springer

It’s also a bit on the nose that one of Canada’s cultural touchpoints was used to parody one of America’s cultural touchpoints… but I think ours is better.

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