A Barenaked Appreciation

The vast majority of my posts on my blog have been about books.  That was really the central idea behind my even starting the blog a little over a year ago.  From time to time I have ventured into other categories ranging from video games to movies to my own goal of losing some weight over the summer.  One thing that I don’t think I’ve ever discussed on this blog is music, and that’s really kind of strange.

The main reason it’s kind of strange is because I was a music education major when I first went to college.  I got away from music because I realized that it wasn’t for me, at least not at the time that I was studying it.  I haven’t even played any instrument at all for a couple of years now, which is kind of sad some times, but I’ve replaced it with other things in my life (most notably bowling).

I listen to music all the time, my iPod is never far from me no matter where I am.  I also have a very eclectic taste when it comes to music.  There are some bands that are popular now that I like, but I really do prefer a lot of the music from the late 90’s and early 2000’s to the music that is coming out today (basically the music from when I was in high school).

So I’ve got a fairly long introduction to this post, and now I’m going to talk about part of the reason that I haven’t finished Hard Magic yet.  The first part is that I’ve been playing Final Fantasy X recently, but in playing it I’ve been doing a lot of the extra stuff that doesn’t cover the main storyline of the game.  So while I’m playing I’ve been listening to a lot of music from what I consider to be the most criminally under-appreciated band of the last 20 years: Barenaked Ladies.

Like a lot of people, I really first heard of them when their song One Week came out in the late 90’s.  It was the band’s single biggest hit in the US although they had been huge in Canada for years.  Their album Stunt was a fantastic cd, every song on it was a lot of fun and it really epitomizes what they really are as a band, a very talented group that plays a lot of fun songs.

Having been a musician for years, one thing that has bothered me for a long time is when bands use a lot of post-production to make their music sound good.  This is also why I don’t like listening to live recordings of bands, because they sound so poor compared to the quality of the song on the cd.  I’ve seen BNL live and they were great, they sound just as good live as they do on their cds.

Guitarist Ed Robertson showed exactly how talented they really are in a series of videos that he recorded and put up on youtube.  He went into the bathroom of his house and recorded a lot of his songs using just the camera and audio recording on his computer, and the songs still sound great.  If you go on youtube and search for The Bathroom Sessions you’ll find a long list of their songs being performed.  In quite a few of the comments people say that they like these acoustic recordings just as much as the album versions.  (I’m going to link to some of my favorites later in the post, but they’re all great and worth listening to.)

Another thing that you see from watching the Bathroom Sessions is just how good of a guitar player Ed is.  When most people think of great guitar players they’re going to bring up John Petrucci (of Dream Theater fame), Alex Lifeson (Rush), or others such as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani (who are part of G3, a concert tour featuring great guitarists).  While all of those players are incredibly skilled, I find it too hard to focus on what they’re playing half the time simply because they’re playing far too fast.  Ed Robertson on the other hand has a very unique style that is in many ways just as difficult as guitar players who ‘shred’ all the time but much easier to listen to for an extended time.  Again, watching the Bathroom Sessions shows just how skilled he really is.

The last thing I’m going to bring up about BNL right now is a video for their song Every Subway Car off their newest album All In Good Time.  When I first purchased the album I listened through all of the songs, and Every Subway Car was not one of the songs that really stood out to me as being one of the better tracks.  A couple of days ago I watched the music video for it (once again on youtube) and I was blown away.  Obviously music videos are still a big deal (although I don’t know where you can actually watch them other than online anymore) and this is one of my favorites that I’ve ever seen.

In a lot of music videos, they try to tell a simple story through the 4 minutes or so that the video takes.  In the video for Every Subway Car they took it to a level that I haven’t seen done in recent years.  The song is decent by itself, but the video shows you exactly what they are talking about in the song, and it’s wonderful.  I won’t say exactly what the song is about, but the video for it works perfectly.

So there is my longish rambling about a band that I love.  In a world where so much of the music sounds exactly the same, they really have a very unique sound and are a lot of fun to listen to.  If you haven’t listened to much of their music, hopefully you’ll check some of it out now.  And if you haven’t listened to them for a while, they’re still awesome.

I’ve got a variety of songs up there.  One Week is obviously their biggest US hit and probably the most recognizable.  He Makes Me Want Her Again and For You are just beautiful songs.  Easy is a good look at Ed’s unique style of guitar playing on a song that he even admits is hard to play.  Some Fantastic and Falling For The First Time really do a good job of showing the energy and fun that they bring to a lot of their songs.  And then of course the video for Every Subway Car that I talked about in my post.

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2 Comments

  1. Very neat, Adam. I’m definitely going to have to poke around what BNL has on iTunes. I always enjoy new musical suggestions.

    As for my own tastes, here is one of my favorite youTube clips: Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton doing, “Sultan’s of Swing.” Enjoy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ-JyAGUsys

    Reply
  2. I was a huge fan of BNL back in the day – this makes me want to check out their more recent stuff. (The last album of theirs that I bought was Maroon.) I saw them live at a small show a few years ago and I could really feel the effect of Steven Page’s absence, but it was still a really fun show. I still get goosebumps listening to “Break Your Heart” off their Rock Spectacle album.

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