“Gordon” by Barenaked Ladies (No. 36)
Barenaked Ladies Gordon, like Stunt, is all over the place musically and thematically. There’s frenetic and lighthearted pieces, pseudo-jazzy, and deep and introspective all mooshed together. Sounds like it should be a hot mess, but it’s well-balanced and there’s not a wasted track on the album.
Pretty sure I enumerated most of the reasons I love BNL in the Stunt entry, but let’s recap briefly; fantastic songwriting, incredible harmonies, superb musicianship, and killer live shows. All of the above are present on Gordon.
“Hello City” opens the album. This, “Enid” and “Grade 9” are pretty lighthearted and upbeat tunes. BNL’s 60s influences come out in interesting ways on Gordon. “Brian Wilson” is a homage to the Beach Boys co-founder, and it’s full of love. The harmonies in “Brian Wilson” floor me every time, to be honest. It echoes, without being derivative, some of Wilson’s best work.
Barenaked Ladies songwriting at its peak
Alongside “Brian Wilson,” there’s “Be My Yoko Ono,” which imagines leaving behind everyone and everything else to be with the one you love. It’s probably redundant to say I love the harmonies on this, but I do.
“Wrap Your Arms Around Me” gives me pause. At first, maybe second and third, glance it sounds like a lovely song about a relationship. On closer listen, it seems like the lyrics are really about an abusive relationship, or worse. The regret rings through, at least for me, and I would hope it would serve as a story to warn against the damage a raised voice or worse can do in a relationship.
“Box Set” and “New Kid (On the Block)” read as indictments of the music industry, which is prescient given that this is BNL’s first major album.
“The Flag” features double bass, acoustic guitar, a bit of snare, and vocals. It’s a somber piece, and beautiful. It’s immediately followed by “If I had $1,000,000” which starts a bit quietly but picks up quickly. One of the most instantly recognizable tunes by BNL, it never fails to put me in a better mood. Fancy Dijon ketchup and individually wrapped bacon, indeed. If you don’t grin when I mention the cruelty of a real green dress, well, I have to question your musical tastes.
Gordon has unforgettable tunes, a finely tuned balance of humor and seriousness, and a band fully in command of its craft. It’s not to be missed.