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Maroon - Barenaked Ladies

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Genre: Rock / Artist: Barenaked Ladies / Extra tracks / Audio CD released 2000-09-18 at Reprise

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      26.05.2008 11:46
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      Highly recommended

      Hm.. seems I've been reviewing a lot of Barenaked Ladies lately. Can't help it, they're just so good!

      2000 saw Candian alternative rockers Barenaked Ladies follow up their commercial breakthrough, "Stunt", with a similar-sounding, yet slightly deeper, follow-up LP: "Maroon". It never reached the same heights of popularity its predecessor did, its lead single proving at best a minor hit on both sides of the Atlantic. This doesn't prove that the quality of the music has declined, however; rather, that the public are all too fickle when it comes to popular music, as "Maroon" is probably Barenaked Ladies' finest album to date, with deeper lyrics and a broader range of musical styles than every before.

      The album kicks off with the stomping rocker "Too Little Too Late". Kicking off with a barnstorming electric guitar riff, and with "whoo"s and handclaps a-plenty, it's reminiscent of the last album's "It's All Been Done": an all-out rock song that never lets up. Definitely a good way to start the album: one track in and there's already one catchy chorus indelibly scorched into your mind. Lyrically, BNL's trademark wit is present and correct, though the song is easily the most obtuse of the album, with the narrative buried under contradiction and sarcasm. An unquestionably fun listen.

      "Never Do Anything" starts off more folky than its predecessor but soon drives into a more densely-layered rock song, though less intense than "Too Little Too Late". An amusing tale of attepting to get through life never doing anything - "I could make a hint, fill my pockets with more than lint - I'll give you a hint, it involves the Internet". A funky break-down with party noises in the background two-thirds of the way through the song allow the song to break the verse-chorus structure and add a surprise to an already clever song.

      Track three, "Pinch Me", was the album's lead single. It's easy to see why - some record exec somewhere undoubtedly noticed the similarities between this and previous smash-hit "One Week": the faux-rap and sing-speak sprechgesang, the pop-culture references. I'd argue this is the superior song though - some cool vocal layering effects, an altogether more downbeat tone, and the classically childish "I could hide out under there / I just made you say underwear" joke ensure that. The crux of the song seems to be about fearing growing up, a theme the band reprise more blatantly later on "Baby Seat", but it's easy to get carried away in the hooks of the chorus and overlook that.

      "Go Home", track four, is perhaps the album's best track, and I can't believe it wasn't released as a single. A fast-paced jangly rocker with a country twang, it's a fantastic song with a simple message: "if you need her, you should be there / go home". Replete with witticisms that assert BNL's collective intelligence, were such assertions still required ("If you think of her as Catherine the Great / Then you should be the horse to help her meet her fate"), it's irresistibly catchy and singable and likely to appeal to everyone from kids to grandparents (though if either of those two demographics are listening, you'll want to cut it off at the coda, wherein the band collectively shout "fuck yeah!")

      "Falling For The First Time" holds something of a special place in my heart, as it's the song that properly introduced me to the Barenaked Ladies. Well, that's probably not technically true - I'd heard "One Week" and "It's All Been Done" when they were released as singles, and liked them - but when I heard "Falling" on the Malcolm In The Middle soundtrack CD in 2001 I felt like I'd completely re-discovered the band and began to seek out their albums. The song is worthy of its lofty position as my formal introduction: it's another catchy rock song (don't worry, the variety kicks in later) laden with contradictions ("I'm so cool, too bad I'm a loser" .. "Anyone plain can be lovely / Anyone, love can be lost") that articulate first love like few other songs have managed.

      Things take a turn for the more subdued with "Conventioneers". A perfectly observed tale of office flirting and the inevitably awkward aftermath of having a fling ("Now I'm in the cab, heading back to my apartment / Everything is drab, and I wish it never started / Now I've landed in this awkward situation / How can I just avoid a conversation?"). The narrative is complemented by an uncharacteristically subdued track that lacks any kind of chorus or bridge; the listener's attention is distracted only by a minimal guitar backing, drums and the occasional piano riff.

      "Sell, Sell, Sell" stays calm, but turns towards the melodaramtic end of the spectrum. Variously interpreted as an indictment of Hollywood and an indictment of the Bush administration, it's cinematic in scope and backed with an E Street Band-style Wall Of Sound that builds and builds. The cathartic final chorus - The chorus "Buy buy buy buy sell sell sell / How well you've learned to not discern / Who's foe and who is friend / We'll own them all in the end" - manages to exude emotion while sounding remarkably restrained and singing of something clearly political, rather than any kind of personal experience. The song is also home to one of my favourite BNL lyrics - "In terms of Roman numerals, she's IV league with Roman Polanski". It's just so ridiculously clever, even though it's something of a tangent within the song; I can't help but smile at the minds that put that line together.

      Things get a bit more rocking again with "The Humour of the Situation", a classic BNL song is the vein of "Never Is Enough" and "Some Fantastic", that sees an array of situations that meet the titular criteria get played out in the lyrics: a friend walking in while you're denigrating him behind his back; the caller ID that reveals a secret extramarital affair; and, more absurdly, "the boy who moved into the henhouse to sleep" who "woke up with egg on his face when he found out all the hens had crossed the street". But "come on now", BNL assert, "enjoy the humour of the situation". Very fun and very, very catchy.

      "Baby Seat" returns the band to the "Pinch Me" theme of fearing growing up: "you can't live your life in the baby seat", listeners are reminded, to a funky bossa nova backing. A lot of fans rate this as the album's weakest song, and they're probably right, but it still has much to recommend, not least the sweet narrative about "Billy and his kid" and the wonderfully observed line "If you think growing up is tough / you're just not grown up enough".

      "Off the Hook" strays further into unusual musical territory, beginning with just 808 drums and synth before bass and piano kick in. It builds steadily, beginning as a acoustic folk song but gaining traction after each chorus to build into an all-out rock song. Lyrically it's among BNL's best, the tale of an abused and cheated-on woman finally deciding to "make him eat his words". Playing on the phrase "off the hook" to mean both letting someone get away with what they've done and leaving the phone unhooked, it's a compelling story that BNL allow to straddle the line between melodrama and sincerity wonderfully.

      "Helicopters" is another slow-builder, though it's far from a catchy rocker, generally tending towards the more acoustic, balladic end of the spectrum. It appears to be told from the perspective of a tour guide at the site of a horrific tragedy; attempting "to synthesise the sounds of my emotions", but failing to deliver the message to an audience "so skeptical of everything they're told". In perhaps the most simultaneously amusing and chilling line of any BNL song, Steve Page sings "a world that loves its irony moust hate the protest singer" as the band lament the world's loss of emotion and catharsis in favour in cynicism and skepticism. "I'm haunted by a story and I do my best to tell it.. can't even give this stuff away, why would I sell it?" indeed.

      "Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel" concludes the album, and as was the case with previous album "Stunt" it's the most balladic song on the album. Set to a slow carnival music-style backing, the song quite literally tells of a late-night commuter that falls asleep at the wheel. As with most of BNL's slower songs, the real appeal is the wonderful lyrics: particularly the inspired twist of meaning of the line "you're the last thing on my mind": prior to the crash, she's a million miles away from his thoughts; but as he lies on the road dying, it becomes rather more literally true. A morbid, but sweet, end to the album.

      So, there we go. 12 tracks, 45 minutes. If you're a BNL fan that doesn't yet have this album, buy it immediately - just a couple of quid at Amazon marketplace. If you're new to the band, "Maroon" is a good first album, though "Stunt", as the bigger commercial hit would be the more natural point at which to start.

      The CD comes with a glossy lyrics booklet and little else. There's no parental guidance sticker but as I said in the review, there's one use of the f-bomb (at the end of "Go Home").

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        31.07.2002 23:01
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        It’s amazing how many bands ‘sell-out’. Just search the Internet and you’ll find hundreds of forums filled with members ranting about how their favourite bands have neglected their core values in search for music that will fill their pockets full of cash. To many Barenaked Ladies fans, Maroon is a ‘sell out’ and lacks the certain raw ability and ‘jangle-pop’ style that made the Canadian band so popular in the early nineties, to this I say caffobble (thats my own little made up word by the way). Maroon is the best real pop album about, a genre which has suffered greatly at the hands of commercially spawned girl and boy bands. Whilst it isn’t quite as fun or whimsical as ‘Maybe You Should Drive’ or ‘Born on a Pirate Ship’, in a world where only number one singles seem to count, it still retains the Barenaked feeling. The Barenaked Ladies are a Canadian band with their very own distinct pop/country/jazz style who have been round since 1992. The BNL’s are Steve Page, Jim Creegan, Ed Roberstson, Tyler Stewart and, having replaced Andy Creegan, Kevin Hearn. Maroon, released in 2000, is their sixth album (fifth if you discount ‘Rock Spectacle’ a mere compilation disk) and follows on from the massive success of the album ‘Stunt’ and the single ‘One Week’, both released in 1998. During the period between albums Kevin Hearn, the new keyboardist, suffered a serious bout of Leukaemia, from which he has now recovered. Whilst the style is quite recognisable, Maroon has a real dark and serious side to it in terms of lyrics, undoubtedly influenced by how close the band came to loosing a member and a friend. It seems perfect to me to lapse into such serious music, though some fans feel they have lost touch with the fun lyrics that made previous albums so appealing. The opening four tracks are pretty much the perfect definition of pop
        . ‘Too Little Too Late’, ‘Never Do Anything’, ‘Pinch Me’ and ‘Go Home’ are simple, upbeat tracks that will have you tapping your feet and muttering the chorus even after one listen. These tracks are incredibly easy on the ear and lovely to have on in the background. The beats are nice and simple and everything seems to be perfectly intertwined, soft voices and delicate guitar playing make for very addictive listening. ‘Pinch Me’ was the first single to be taken from this album but in truth any of these four could have been. Despite their simple pop undercurrents these four tracks retain the BNL’s ability to write lyrics that can be funny, sad or just downright strange depending on how the listener is feeling or how closely you want to analyse their genius. ‘Pinch Me’ is a particularly catchy tune that features Ed Robertson as lead vocal as opposed to Steve Page. For me the song is about a bloke who is plodding through life, a life that he wishes he can wake up from – hence Pinch Me! The song is the perfect blend in terms of music, I can’t make any technical comments but it just seems right to me. Ed sings the mellow verses so well before a typical fast paced rap for the chorus. Perhaps I like the song because it pulls out one of my favourite lines where Ed asks the listener ‘I could hide out under there’, provoking the imaginary response of “hide where?” to which Ed chuckles ‘ I just made you say underwear’. It doesn’t have too much bearing on the direction of the song but it drew a smile from me. ‘Falling for the First Time’ is the fifth track and appears to me to be the bridge from the happy, light-hearted, section to the more serious songs. The tracks after this definitely have a more serious feel to them and spawn contemplation and thought. ‘Falling for the First Time’ is an unusual s
        ong, the beat and tune is all very upbeat but the lyrics seem to hit me a little bit more, perhaps this is merely because I’m nearing the end of my teens and like to contemplate all things love related. Again Ed takes up the lead vocals but it’s the piano playing of Hearn that really keep it moving at an addictive pace. Technically I’m not sure it’s the best song but it definitely has a personal appeal as I always get goose bumps as I hear it; ‘Anything plain can be lovely, anything loved can be lost, Maybe I lost my direction, what if our love is the cost? Anyone perfect must be lying, anything easy has its cost, Anyone plain can be lovely, anyone loved can be lost.’ ‘Conventioneers’ is the sixth track and is step down from the fast paced jangle-pop to a slower more reflectionary pace, it also picks up on the BNL’s great ability to tell stories in their songs. ‘Conventioneers’ tells the story of two co-workers who have a fling whilst at a conference and then have to face those awkward moments at work on Monday morning. I haven’t quite figured out why the story is being told, which is one of the good things about BNL songs, sometimes it does take a while to find what they are really singing about and when you do it is so satisfying. ‘Sell Sell Sell’ which is up next is very difficult to explain. It begins as a tale about an out of work actor but goes off at a bit of tangent when Iraq is brought into song, I guess there is a moral – that we are responsible for our actions, but it’s difficult to find. ‘Humour of the Situation’ returns to the upbeat beginnings and takes a break from any serious lyrics and isn’t my favourite song. Track 9 is ‘Baby Seat’ which again isn’t ground breaking but is a good tune with the message that ‘you’ve got stand on your own, don’t admit defeat’.
        Apologies for rushing through those last 5 tracks – they are all good and typically BNL but I want to move onto the end of the album. ‘Off the Hook’, ‘Helicopters’ and ‘Tonight if the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel’ are the much more sombre tracks on the album, something the BNL’s haven’t dabbled too much with but that work very well. ‘Off the Hook’ is a mini bridge into the next two tracks. It’s slow paced and soft with a prominent beat that makes it a very good background track. The lyrics are sharp, about a man who has had an affair or a man who doesn’t love his partner and the wife is waking up to it. ‘Helicopters’ is the grimmest song I have ever heard Steve Page utter. As always a nice simple beat and has some excellent guitar work but the emotion is really carried in Page’s voice,it almost begins to wobble when a particularly sharp lyric comes up. The song seems at what the point to death and destruction caused by war is, but there is definitely an undercurrent of he frustrations with public life (first time I heard it I expected it to be their break up song or something) and exploitation of the masses. Whilst it’s not a fun song ‘Helicopters’ really hits me and I guess that’s all that counts’; ‘A world that loves its irony must hate its protest singer’ ’Tonight is the night I fell asleep at the wheel’ is the epitome the BNL's. It’s relatively slow paced, with crescendos and drum marches pitched with mellow periods that match the song perfectly. On the first listen, it’s just another BNL song about how a man suffers a car crash and watches his life drift away. On the second, third listen it can be what you want it to be, it’s incredibly personal. For me it’s a classic – you don’t know what you’ve got til you’ve l
        ost it song. The final song on the album I have (I know some albums don’t have it) is ‘Inline Bowline’ which is a fast paced, almost loud, affair that’s catchy and upbeat. A song about a knot doesn’t seem to be that important but it just reminds the audience that the BNL’s can be serious and fun! Between ‘Tonight is the night I fell asleep at the wheel’ and ‘Inline Bowline’ is the hidden track that I think is called ‘Hidden Sun’. Every time I hear it I shed a tear. It’s a slow, quiet track with absolutely no hint that it’s a BNL song, piano being the predominant instrument. It carries so much emotion, and is quite obviously sung in the light of Hearn’s fight with cancer. It carries an upbeat message but it always seems to make me think of how easily life can be taken away; ‘inside ourselves is a hidden sun that burns and burns, and never does any harm to anyone’ Maroon may not be to the liking of traditionalist Barenaked Ladies’ fans (that’s why it’s only got four stars) but for me it’s fantastic. There are tinges of country and jazz music in there but it’s fundamentally pop. The general message of the album is that we aren't here forever and we should think about where we are going in lfie and if we are happy. If you are a Barenaked Ladies fan then you’ll either already have got this or have decided not to buy it (which you really should do!) If you haven’t been introduced then I would urge you to add this to your collection, as a guide I’d compare them with the Beautiful South. I know the Barenaked Ladies are not well known here but I’d urge you take a risk if you’ve got a spare tenner, I’d put them in the same league as the Beatles.

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          30.04.2001 19:37
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          If you don't know them already then they are 5 guys form Canada....and they rock. Having been a fan since their debut album Gordon in the early nineties, I would say that I am in a respectable position to comment on the excellence of their new album, so I will. Maroon is a classic BNL album. With just the right blend of pumping rock tracks and slow, melodic songs. Not only do they fail to lose your attention throughout their whole album, but you find yourself knowing the words after only a couple of listens, which is basically due to the catchiness of their tunes and it's downright easy listening. Non-BNL fans will argue that the album is a lot of the same from their last album Stunt, but I have to disagree. The lada have obviously grown up a lot since then and Marron is a refreshing change. Of course, the BNL wit still remains, but their songs don't suffer because of it. After the flop of their first couple of songs (which didn't fit into Britains favoured music genre at the time) the boys have been reluctant to release songs in Britain. But, after the success of "One Week" it has been easier for them to come over. This was backed up by their amazing tour this year wher they were brilliant. So, whether or not you are a seasoned BNL fan, or just an enquisitive music lover. Maroon is the album for you.

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          13.11.2000 12:55
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          Between the releases of 'Stunt' and this album, the keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Hearn underwent (and successfully recovered from) a bout of leukemia. Not surprisingly, the subject matter on their sixth album leans toward the darker side of life. Among the foreboding topics touched on are the thoughts of a car crash victim 'Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep At the Wheel' and touring countries torn by political strife 'Helicopters'. Luckily, this Canadian quintet uses a combination of impressive pop sensibility and perfect songcraft driven by undeniable hooks to lighten the mood. So even though they might be singing about relationships that are either headed south 'Too Little Too Late' or unrealized 'Conventioneers', the Ladies do it with an exuberance that helps sweeten some of the bitterness. Among the upbeat pop moments found on this album are the don't-take-yourself-so-seriously anthem 'The Humour Of The Situation' and the infectious optimism of 'Falling For the First Time', where runaway piano, chiming guitars and perfect harmonies form an idyllic pop moment. An added bonus is the secret track 'Hidden Sun,' a piano-driven song about internal strength that sounds like something They Might Be Giants might have written in a serious moment - class. The Barenaked Ladies are a very good band, with witty lyrics, brilliantly adaptable voices with a country music twang (don't let that put you off tho!), and much talent with a variety of instruments. It suffices to say this is a solid album, well worth your money. In conclusion I urge you to listen without pre-defined expectations and your ears will thank you. These guys are really, really, really good.

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          29.10.2000 22:32
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          Bare Naked Ladies - great title for a group. A friend of mine had Maroon on in the car and before long we both found ourselves singing along to the upbeat songs. I was particularly struck by 'Never do anything' which just begs you to sing along. This is followed by 'Pinch me' which has great words and a very different sound a sound that we most certainly do not know in the UK maybe more American. The first five songs are upbeat and then the mood of the album the changes to a more melodic second half. 'Sell Sell Sell' is my favourite song from the second half the vocal ranges are very different. A very fresh album although I do not think much of the cover.

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          26.10.2000 00:23
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          From opening track to the close of the hidden song, I am more than pleased with how solid this album is as a whole. It's fun, it's hip, and it has cool lyrics to compliment the good time you have while listening. I don't think I've gone more than a day without listening to this album since I got it. It's so damn catchy that I can't help but continue to listen. Some say it's a bit more morose and somber...maybe for the Barenaked Ladies it is, but it's still loaded with humor and a damn good time. It's a sing-along, pop in the car stereo, pass your time, let your worries melt away album. I strongly suggest it.

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          09.10.2000 19:05

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          I may be one of the few that thought "Maybe You Should Drive" was a great album, but I think that this is their best work since then. Much like "Maybe," there is a mixture of moods on this album. All the songs are chock full o'classic power-pop melodies. Buy this album if you want something to sing along with. I guarantee that by the third listen, you'll know the words to almost every chorus (and "Humor of the Situation" will be in your head as you fall asleep!) Don't buy this album if you want something to have in the background, because this needs to be front and center while it plays.

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          08.10.2000 07:38
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          I first heard some songs from this album when The Barenaked Ladies played V2000 in Chelmsford over the summer. I was taken aback by how catchy they were, because I was expecting a lull after the fabulous 'Stunt'. However, the songs are really great, and so catchy it would seem that when I brought the album I still remembered the lyrics! 'Maroon' is more serious than their other stuff which might be a turn off to some fans, but if you listen to the lyrics then you see their sense of humour has not been lost. The album is well-produced, it seems slicker than anything else they have done to date and will be a must for all BNL fans and anyone who likes good music! This is definitely another great album from a great band!

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          20.09.2000 05:56
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          This morning, fresh out of the shower, I heard an ad on the radio for “Maroon”, the new album by the Barenaked Ladies, and I just *had* to run straight out and buy it. After I’d put on some clothes, of course. I first heard of the Barenaked Ladies (five guys, in case you’ve never heard of them) in 1992, when I was sharing a student flat with Paul Stefiszyn, who was from Canada (drop me a line if you’re listening, Paul!). They had just released their first album “Gordon” to enormous critical and popular acclaim on the other side of the Atlantic. It didn’t make much of a splash over here, though. And despite turning out a string of clever, catchy pop tunes, it wasn’t until their album “Stunt” (1998) that they really made it big in Britain as well. “One Week” was the hit single from that album, a fast tune with rapped lyrics and a bouncy chorus. It’s perhaps not completely typical of the BNLs’ musical style, but the lyrics are unmistakably theirs, a blend of the humorous, melancholy and insightful: “How can I help it if I think you’re funny when you’re mad Trying hard not to smile though I feel bad I’m the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral Can’t understand what I mean? You soon will” (from “One Week”) “Maroon” picks up where “Stunt” left off. The first five songs are upbeat, infectious tunes that almost define the word “pop”. The beats are essentially simple (though Tyler Stewart on drums throws in plenty of interesting variations if you pay closer attention) and easy to tap your toes along to. The melodies are easy on the ear and sticky on the brain: even on a first listen you’ll be humming along to the choruses before each song is out. The lyrics are mostly lightweight, but written with a perfect ear for rhythm, paci
          ng and singability: “If you scream in your sleep, or collapse in a heap, and spontaneously weep, then you know you’re in deep” (from “Go Home”) With deceptive ease, all of these elements come together in a series of neat 4-minute packages. The first single from the album, “Pinch Me”, is the third track, and is probably the most commercial of these first five songs. “Falling for the First Time” is my current personal favourite, though. It has a mesmerizing chorus to it that speaks of challenges suffered and overcome: “Anyone perfect must be lying, anything easy has its cost Anyone plain can be lovely, anyone loved can be lost What if I lost my direction? What if I lost my sense of time? What if I nursed this infection? Maybe the worst is behind” (from "Falling for the First Time") In the second half (well, more like the second two thirds), the boys wander into styles that are reminiscent of their earlier work. The lyrics become less generic, more cynical, and start to work in a story-telling fashion: “Sell, sell, sell” is about fame, the media, and the movie business; “Off the Hook” is a cynical look at one partner constantly forgiving the other in one-sided relationships; and “Tonight is the night I fell asleep at the wheel” sort of speaks for itself. The tunes are a little more downbeat and sometimes dirgeful (“Tonight is the night...” would work well as a funeral march--I suspect this is intentional). Generally, they are a bit more difficult to get to grips with. I have no doubt, though, that they will grow on me like juicy grapes on the vine, ripening with age. The album is produced by Don Was, master of the clever pop track (remember the unbearably catchy “Walk the Dinosaur” from the eighties? That was him. The album “Wha
          t Up, Dog?” is an oft-overlooked classic). On previous albums the Barenaked Ladies have already proved themselves to be capable (co-) producers in their own right, and Was seems mostly content to let the BNL sound and colour speak for itself. His unique presence is felt most strongly in “Baby Seat”, with its basic beat and Hammond organ whirling away in the background. There are a few other tracks that have a slightly country feel to them, which could also be put down to his influence. “Maroon” is more polished than “Stunt”, but has less of an edge to it. I feel this is a loss, because a lot of the Barenaked Ladies’ appeal lies in their playful approach to their music and lyrics. Even on a bad day, though, the BNLs can knock out better tunes than 95% of the artists in the top forty. “Maroon” may be too smooth to be perfect, but it is nowhere short of excellent.

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        • Product Details

          Disc #1 Tracklisting
          1 Too Little Too Late
          2 Never Do Anything
          3 Pinch Me
          4 Go Home
          5 Falling for the First Time
          6 Conventioneers
          7 Sell Sell Sell
          8 The Humor of the Situation
          9 Baby Seat
          10 Off the Hook
          11 Helicopters
          12 Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel
          13 Hidden Sun (bonus track)