Barenaked Ladies: All in Good Time


RIYL: Camper Van Beethoven, Moxy Fruvous, The Housemartins

From the outside, it always looked like the Barenaked Ladies got most of their goofy humor from Ed “One Week” Robertson, and most of their moody depth from Steven “The Old Apartment” Page – so when Page quit the band last year, it might have seemed safe to conclude that subsequent BNL albums would contain a lot of tongue-in-cheek rapping and punny wordplay. Creative dynamics are never that simple, of course, but it still may come as a surprise to many fans that BNL’s first post-Page effort, All in Good Time, contains some of the band’s darkest, most mature work.

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Even better, Time goes a long way toward correcting the blandly pleasant drift of the Ladies’ recent efforts, restoring some of the bite and emotional depth that lurked beneath their sunny pop hooks. For the first time in recent memory, Barenaked Ladies sounds like an honest-to-goodness band here, and not just because songwriting credits are split relatively democratically between Robertson and his fellow remaining BNLers (Kevin Hearn, Tyler Stewart, and Jim Creggan). There’s an organic, lived-in feel to these performances that shines through the band’s usual production gimmicks; even the album’s requisite rap number, “Four Seconds,” sounds more authentically funky.

There are a number of tracks that sling arrows at departed friends and lovers, and it’ll be hard for fans to resist the temptation to wonder how many of them were inspired by Page’s absence. “I tried to be your brother / You cried, and ran for cover,” Robertson sings on the opening track and leadoff single, “You Run Away”; later, he spits “Can you forgive me for / What I had to do? / I’d use a metaphor / But I’m done with you” in the charging “I Have Learned.” But how truly personal these songs are isn’t as important as the breadth of their appeal – and both of those tracks offer more resonance, boast more feeling, than the band has shown in years. The same is true for much of the rest of All in Good Time. Call it addition through subtraction. (Risin’/EMI 2010)

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