“Stunt” by Barenaked Ladies (No. 64)

"Stunt" album coverIt’s unclear to me when I first heard the Barenaked Ladies. It feels like I was introduced to the band through a sort of osmosis, hearing their tunes in the background for a long time before I really noted them as a band I should check out.

Stunt is an embarrassment of riches when it comes right down to it. Literally every track on Stunt is a classic.

The album opens with “One Week,” which should be immediately familiar to most folks. It’s a bubbly, happy song about two friends making up after a fight. Perhaps the most entertaining bit of the song is Ed Robertson’s stream-of-consciousness raps throughout the song,

“It’s All Been Done,” “Call and Answer,” and “Alcohol” were all singles off the album as well. No doubt most of the folks in the 25 to 45-ish age range are familiar with these. They’re all super-solid songs with amazing pop sensibility. Technically, Barenaked Ladies are usually put in the “alternative” category, but they’re a straight-up pop band.

Some of the best of Barenaked Ladies

“Call and Answer” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. A song about a dysfunctional reconciliation, it’s alternately hopeful, loving, and reproachful. It’s got a dreamy quality about it, much slower paced than “One Week” or “It’s All Been Done.” It’s a relationship you know can’t work, but you try anyway, because it’s not quite over yet. Even if it should be.

“In the Car” has a bit of surf rock guitar going on. This one is about looking back at teenage relationships, the frenzied explorations in the backseat that never went quite all the way.

“Some Fantastic” features Robinson and Stephen Page trading off vocals, fantasizing about all the things they’ll never do – but none so much as wanting to be with someone again. The music for this one is almost deceptively simple, but it’s almost entirely carried by the vocals.

Another nod to Brian Wilson

Then there’s “When You Dream,” a song to an infant son that’s amazingly touching. It reminds me more than a little of “God Only Knows.” Once again, the Ladies enter a dreamy territory, and it’s almost impossible to resist. Acoustic guitar, ethereal backing vocals, and Page’s voice singing in a lullaby voice. It’s a truly sweet song.

For those unfortunate few who’re new to Barenaked Ladies, Stunt is an ideal starting point. In and of itself, it’s nearly a greatest hits album.

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