ALBUM REVIEW – BARENAKED LADIES – SILVERBALL

The Barenaked Ladies; a band who should need no introduction, and yet strangely, you will find they so often do. How, I asked, could my friends respond to my conversation of this musical behemoth with
the requirement for a reminder as to who they are?

Well, the Ladies’ most recent moment of household fame was the inventive and catching theme tune to the massively successful TV comedy ‘The Big Bang Theory’. Prior to that however, we have to look back almost a decade to the soaring number 1 ‘One Week’. The band’s initial blistering rise to fame was aproximately a decade before that again. In music, a decade is a life time.

Turned on it’s head though, it reminds us that the Barenaked Ladies have the staying power to keep popping back in to the popular mainstream and the ability to do it affectively when the chance presents.

This brings us to the band’s latest offering ‘Silverball’. The band’s staying power can safely be attributed to the strength of their albums. Not just a list of single attempts, the Ladies’ usually draw up albums consisting of many varied songs, styles and themes and almost always bristling with intelligence and humour. Silverball comes as the third studio offering since the band lost one of it’s two main vocalists and main writers and, although there has since been a clear loss of Steven Page’s sound, they have continued the same ethic of musicality, heart and cheeky wit. A brave move, when so many would have, well, ‘run away’ as they so well put it themselves.

From the get go, Silverball set’s a tone. The majority of the songs working around simple chord progressions with big punchy beats and guitar sitting at the middle thus creating the route for the sound. Kevin Hearn, a man who often functions like a one man producer; colouring the band’s songs with a range of extra instruments really does lift many of these tracks with, primarily, fantastic keyboard work.

Although this album seems to take a simpler guitar pop sound for the best part, another of the band’s assets comes through for them in the shape of Ed’s metephor heavy, witty and tuneful lyrics. There are few tracks on this little disc you can’t sing along to one way or another.

Ironically the single ‘Say What You Want’, despite it’s catchy and inoffensive nature is probably one of the poorer examples of the album, lacking a great deal of the band’s musical identity, ability to make humour of heartbreak or inventiveness. It ends up sounding like a slightly less affecting ‘Testing 1,2,3’. The choice seems more as a safe entry in to the country/rock/ballad demographic with Tyler’s beat seeming to be the only part not feeling by the numbers.

This may be why the following track ‘Passcode’ is such a wonderfully inventive and creative number. A knowing nod from a true album band? Perhaps.

From this point the album does as many great albums do, and lines up some of the last-half experiments. ‘Hold My Hand’ offers a much more riffy guitar line, ‘Toe to Toe’ goes to a more delicate and intricate place reminiscent of early 90’s BNL and ‘Tired of Fighting With You’ is a dream scape like relaxation piece that will leave you ready to slump down in a comfy chair with some expensive drink in your hand.

On many levels this may not be seen as the band’s most ambitious records, but that is also said of ‘Maroon’, one of their albums I most regularly come back to. Silverball gives the impression of a band doing what they do well but within their comfort zone. This is far from a criticism when that, by definition, results in a solid number of musical, emotional, catchy and interesting songs. Silverball may not set the world on fire but it won’t fall off the bottom. If you’re a fan of good music or just a fan of Barenaked Ladies, this is a solid entertaining play that will stay on the table for a long, long time.

Howard Billington 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s