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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Review: Barenaked Ladies – All In Good Time


Barenaked Ladies – All In Good Time
2010, Raisin Records/EMI


When the Barenaked Ladies lost co-front man Steve Page last year some fans questioned whether the band could carry on. The four remaining members Ed Robertson (vocals, guitar); Kevin Hearn (keys, vocals, guitar, etc.); Jim Creeggan (bass, vocals) and Tyler Stewart (drums, vocals) decided to continue as a quartet. While their early shows as a foursome did show some growing pains as the band learned different vocal parts than they had sung for, in some cases, the last two decades, it was clear that the change energized the band. On March 23, 2010 (Canada) and March 30, 2010 (USA), Barenaked Ladies will release their first album with the new lineup, All In Good Time. Longtime fans may have their worries, but this is Barenaked Ladies’ best work to date.

All In Good Time opens with the album’s first single “You Run Away”, a song that seems clearly written about the frustration felt by Robertson at the departure of Steve Page. While the band has been very professional about Page’s departure, the emotions expressed here are very clear even if Page is never mentioned. The melody is a thing of beauty; simple but lasting. “Summertime” carries echoes of some of Paul McCartney’s work with Wings while introducing some particular muscular guitar in counterpoint to the easy-listening arrangement. It’s a surprising turn for the band but a very enjoyable one. Kevin Hearn takes the mic for “Another Heartbreak”, a mid-tempo tune that fits Hearn’s tendency toward writing upbeat sounding songs with melancholic lyrics. It’s one of the better songs Hearn has contributed as a songwriter to the band thus far. Barenaked Ladies pull another sonic surprise on “Four Seconds”, a rapid-fire lyrical experience with a distinctly European flavor. Don’t be surprised if “Four Seconds” ends up as a single with a wildly successful dance club mix down the line.

Jim Creeggan brings a quirky ballad in “On The Lookout”, a 1970’s AM Radio-style tune with modern flourishes. Creeggan’s voice has been vastly under-represented on past albums and it’s good to hear his distinctive sound here. Robertson is up next with “Ordinary”, a gorgeous folk-rocker with some country attitude in its origins. For whatever else they may have lost in the past year, the vocal mix here sounds as good as ever. “I Have Learned” finds Robertson amidst an angry, muscular rocker that’s very atypical of the band’s past work. Fans will speculate if “I Have Learned” reflects on the band’s last year, and it’s quite possible, but it’s a nice change of pace from a band that’s garnered a reputation for a lighter sound. “Every Subway Car” is a love song that seems to be colored in the dark textures of urban decay. The song is positively upbeat while taking a slightly darker perspective of the world than fans may be used to.

Kevin Hearn’s “Jerome” sounds like an ode to the Old West; a down-tempo paean to the ghosts that still walk the streets. “How Long” is a high-powered rock tune that displays some seriously melodic muscle. Robertson takes vocals on “Golden Boy”, perhaps the clearest song reference to Page on the album. The song echoes sentiments raised in “You Run Away” as well as some of the comments Page has made in the press since departing the band. The song is very solid, with the sort of upbeat chorus you’d expect from Barenaked Ladies, but includes uncharacteristic anger delivered in gentle but pointed tones. Creeggan takes the mic one last time for “I Saw It”, a gentle breakup ballad that is a nice counter to the preceding track while perhaps staying on subject. “The Love We’re In” is a brief and rueful observation on a relationship that isn’t working. Ed Robertson takes vocals for the last time on the album in a song that sounds like it’s incomplete, although that plays entirely to the subject of the song. Kevin Hearn says goodnight on behalf of Barenaked Ladies with “Watching The Northern Lights”, a peaceful rumination that reflects, after all of the struggle of the past year, Barenaked Ladies have landed in a good place.

You never know what a major personnel change will do to a band. Some come out as good as ever, while some bands flounder until either the original line-up reunites or the band hangs it up. Barenaked Ladies seem to be trying for the much rarer distinction of actually getting better. All In Good Time lacks the narcissistic anger and dysfunction that Page’s songwriting brought, but that well is filled by real emotion generated through the trials and tribulations of the past year. Musically, All In Good Time is Barenaked Ladies’ finest work yet. This is an album you’ll live with for a while. All In Good Time is a new cornerstone for the band, and a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)


You can learn more about Barenaked Ladies at http://www.barenakedladies.com/ or www.myspace.com/barenakedladies. All In Good Time drops March 23, 2010 in Canada and March 30, 2010 in the US and the UK. All In Good Time can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com in either the standard edition or special edition (with t-shirt and bonus tracks). Digital versions are available through Amazon.com and iTunes.

2 comments:

Curtis13 said...

Wildy,

Your review inspired me to buy the Ladies' newest album, which I have been debating since buying their last couple of discs, which didn't thrill me.

Curtis Smale

Georgina said...

This won't really have success, I feel like this.