Well, if that title didn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will. So this blog entry is all about the Barenaked Ladies. The band, that is. Geez, where is your mind at!? I call them my guilty pleasure band. Everyone has one. You know, a band that is completely unlike any other band you listen to. Maybe a clueless relative gave you the album as a gift and you actually wound up liking it. Maybe you listened to them when you were a youngster. Maybe your parents listened to them; you know, the osmosis effect. Whatever the case, you still listen to them – though only when you’re alone in the house or car. You belt out all the words, and if you’re anything like me, you can’t resist a little air guitar or air drum solo. Just make sure you pull the curtains first.
I own seven Barenaked Ladies albums. One of them is a Christmas album named, you guessed it, Barenaked for the Holidays. Today being December 1, I pulled it out of the drawer where I keep the rest of my Christmas music and listened to it. Those guys have great musicianship. Not only can all five of them sing, they can play a plethora of instruments, from accordions to mandolins to stuff you’d find in a Home Depot. In one song they even used two different pitched tambourines – just little things that make the music that much more enjoyable for me.
The first BNL album I ever bought was Stunt back in 1998. It was one of the first CDs I ever owned. I can still remember buying it: it was $18.99 in the basement of the Humboldt grocery/hardware store. I had become addicted to the lead single, One Week, that was on the radio. I must’ve saved up for weeks just to afford that CD. The half hour drive from Humboldt to home seemed like an eternity because the car only had a cassette player. When we got home, I rushed through the front door (probably leaving my mother to unload all the groceries), popped the CD into the little stereo on top of the fridge, and sat at the kitchen table until the last track ended. Good times.
I think the reason their music struck a chord with me (sorry) all those years ago is because they didn’t just sing about what I used to call “mushy stuff.” You have to remember, back in ’98 I was 10 or 11 years old, and girls still had cooties. They sang (and sing) about all kinds of stuff – apples, robbing banks full of nuns, chimpanzee postcards, car crashes, suicide, old apartments, alcohol, and of course what it would be like to have a million dollars (“Dijon ketchups! Mmmm!”). Their music made me realize that you could write good music and have a sense of humour, that you could write a hit without the phrase “I wanna be with you” repeated 4 times in each chorus. Hey, you didn’t even need scantily clad women in your videos! Did I mention they’re Canadian too?
But they’re much more than just a novelty act. Some of their lyrics pack a real punch. The song When I Fall comes to mind. It’s about a guy standing on a ledge of a tall building, about to commit suicide. He reflects back on his life as he looks in the window at the people sitting around a boardroom table, staring at him. “Look straight in the boardroom – a modern pharaoh’s tomb. They’re frightened of jumping in case they survive,” he observes. It’s one of my favourites, a great song, if you ever get the chance to listen to it.
So there you have it. I’ve aired out my dirty laundry on the world wide web for all to read. But don’t think I’m letting you off the hook so easily. Leave me a comment: what’s your guilty pleasure band? If you don’t want to leave your real name so you can’t be identified, I understand. Just know that if I walk past a house this week with a silhouetted air guitar player in the window, dancing maniacally around the Christmas tree, I’ve found you out.