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The Darker Shade of Maroon

CD Review: The Barenaked Ladies, Maroon

by S.E. Shepherd
July 17, 2001

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The Darker Shade of Maroon_S.E. Shepherd-CD Review: The Barenaked Ladies, <i>Maroon</i> The Barenaked Ladies have established themselves as the jokesters of Rock. Known primarily for their catchy tunes and quirky sense of humor, the Barenaked Ladies recently released Maroon, the band’s fifth studio album. Like it’s predecessors, Maroon contains elements of humor and ironic word play, but this is a decidedly more serious album for the band.

Starting off the album, the hardest-working-bar-band sound of “Too Little Too late” instantly wins over the listener. Lead singer Stephen Page belts out the lyrics with the conviction of Huey Lewis at his best. The band changes gear with the playful “Never Do Anything,” which seems to be the dark side of “Never Is Enough,” from their 1998 album Stunt. Where “Enough” lists all the things singer Ed Robertson doesn’t want to do, “Anything” is a lament of all things Page’s character will never get to do.

Robertson doesn’t have as many leads as he did on Stunt, but his vocals are some of the most endearing songs on the album. The album’s first hit “Pinch Me” has many of the band’s trademark sounds, the nostalgic feel, the irreverent wordplay and the catchy chorus. However there is a sadder undercurrent in the lyrics, “It’s like a dream you try to remember but it’s gone/then you try to scream but it comes out as a yawn/When you try to see the world beyond your front door,” Robertson waxes.

On “Falling for the First Time,” Robertson explores the feelings of insecurity and making difficult decisions. “Anything plain can be lovely/anyone loved can be lost/Maybe I lost my direction/what if our love is the cost?” Robinson pines, though he concludes the song stating, “Maybe the worst is behind.”

Most of the songs on Maroon are darker because the subject matter is much more adult. The Barenaked ladies tackle issues such as infidelity, with “Off the Hook,” and an awkward relationship in “Humor of the Situation.” While the wit is still there, it’s a bit more biting and sarcastic than the Ladies’ earlier work.

Perhaps a line from the song, “Baby Seat,” gives us a clue to the new outlook of the Ladies, “If you think growing up is tough/ then you’ve just not grown up enough.” Harsh words from a band that used to sing about what they’d do with a million dollars.

Not that Maroon is a complete downer; “Go Home” is a happy tune about being with the one you love, with the Barenaked Ladies spin on it. “If you’re lucky to be one of the few/to find somebody who will tolerate you/then I shouldn’t have to tell you again/Just pack your bags and get yourself on a plane,” Page tells us, adding, “If you need her/you should be there/Go home.”

Like Stunt, Maroon is a good album that could have been much better if they just left a few songs off. “Conventioneers,” a song about office romance, is an interesting lounge-act tune, but somewhat of a filler song. “Sell, Sell, Sell” is a confusing song I believe to be about commercialism, but message isn’t exactly clear, as is the case with the song “Helicopters,” which sings of a media scoop, though the subject of the song is very ambiguous.

The album closes with “I Fell Asleep at the Wheel,” a somewhat macabre song about a car wreck, narrated in first person. Because of it’s content and carnival-like sound, listeners will be reminded of “A Day in a Life,” the closer of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. The CD of Maroon also has a “bonus” track, “Hidden Sun,” that adds nothing to the album.

For almost a decade, The Barenaked Ladies wrote fun, funny little tunes that fans and critics absorbed easily. Their songs contained wit and pop sorely lacking in much of mainstream music. Now with Maroon, the band seems to be moving into a more serious light, writing songs with a more mature subject matter. The album is a bit more uneven than Stunt, with some songs standing out much clearer than others. Maroon is still a good album, but those expecting the fun filled recordings of earlier Barenaked Ladies albums, may be a bit surprised by the this new album and this new direction.

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