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Barenaked From The Start,
This review is from: Gordon (Audio CD)
The Barenaked Ladies debut release (or at least their major label debut) "Gordon" remains my favorite from the group. That is not to say that they don't have other very good CDs, but this one has such a wonderful collection of varieties and quirky songs that it would be difficult to top. Fortunately, they continue to try, so we get to enjoy all their efforts. "Gordon" was released on July 28th of 1992, and though it was quite successful in Canada, that success didn't cross any borders. Nevertheless, it does contain some of their biggest hits and fan favorites.
"Hello City" starts things off, a less than flattering look at Halifax, but still it is good fun. "Enid" is the first single from the album ("Be My Yoko Ono" was released before the album was recorded), a song about Steven Page's first girlfriend, but named for a waitress due to her name being "dine" in reverse. "Grade 9" is a song which pokes fun at adolescence and how awkward we all feel during that time. "Brian Wilson" is another single from the album, and a song which remains as an all-time fan favorite. The lyrics are written from the perspective of someone identifying with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys after he was diagnosed with mental illness. "Be My Yoko Ono" was the band's first ever single and won the band a prize which allowed them to make this album. The lyrics talk about giving up everything to be with someone, i.e. their personal Yoko Ono.
Next up is "Wrap Your Arms Around Me", a song completely different in feel to all those which came before. The lyrics are also not clear, undoubtedly on purpose, mixing images from a normal healthy relationship, with those that could be taken as violent against another. "What a Good Boy" comes back a bit toward the sound of the rest of the album, but the lyrics talk about the weight of expectations which are placed on people even as they are born. "The King of Bedside Manor" was recorded in the nude, after they were having difficulty getting it right. As a result, they have recorded one song for each album au natural. I have no idea what it is about, but it is a fun fast number which gets you moving. "Box Set" is sung from the perspective of an aging star who is releasing a Box Set of material for his fans. "I Love You" is a quirky song where the singer encourages his love to "make a family tree" with him. The lyrics also hint at a shallowness to the singer's love, as he compares it with food he likes.
"Blame It on Me" is a song about keeping a relationship going, even through the fights and difficult times. One gets the impression from the lyrics that the singer is worried that his love is going to break-up with him, but that may just be my impression. "New Kid (On the Block)" pokes a bit of fun at the members of the group, but also is a bit sensitive to the idea that they may not be taken seriously as a result of being in the group. "The Flag" is a song which is about getting out of abusive relationships. The first part of the song is probably my favorite section of all their songs; the ending doesn't work as well for me musically, though it is still good. "If I Had $1000000" is the signature song from the group, and likely will always be. A love song, as only the Barenaked Ladies could make. "Crazy" closes out the album (though there is some extra blooper type stuff at the end). It is a song about rebuilding trust in a relationship.
There are many things I love about this album and the group. The group clearly has a lot of fun, and provides a different perspective, and has a lot of variety in their sound. I like their references to other musical groups as well, with three song titles directly referencing other musicians and groups, and then musical and lyrical references to Rush, Styx, and Milli Vanilli, as well as a song about an artist releasing a "Box Set". This is a group which appreciates other music and musicians even if they are poking a bit of fun at times. This is something which carries over to their concerts as well. This is definitely a five-star CD.
Barenaked Ladies are Steven Page (vocals, guitar, synthesizer, sound effects, shaker), Ed Robertson (guitar, vocals, synthesizer, sound effects, shaker, cowbell), Jim Creeggan (double bass, vocals, sound effects, shaker), Andy Creeggan (organ, piano, conga, sound effects, tambourine, triangle, vocals, claves, cuica, shaker, mark tree, guiro, finger cymbals, cabasa), and Tyler Stewart (drums, sound effects, vocals, shaker). There are far too many guests on this album to list them all here.