Barenaked Ladies – Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001: What a Good Band, What a Smart Band, What a Witty Band

2001_BarenakedLadies_DiscOneAllTheirGreatestHits19912001Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album: Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001
Year: 2001
Grade: A+

In Brief: An excellent overview of the versatility and songwriting skill demonstrated in the band’s first 10 years. This is the rare “best-of” project that gets it almost exactly right.

“Disc One, it’s where we’ve begun, it’s all my greatest hits/And if you are a fan, then you know that you’ve already got ’em.”
–“Box Set”, which ironically does not appear on this compilation

The release of a “greatest hits” album can often leave a band’s fanbase asking “Why?” You know how it goes: You, the faithful fan, have scrounged to acquire every album, every single, every rarity, by a band you love, only to find that when a contractual obligation for your beloved artist rolls around, some of that much-sought-after new material winds up on a compilation album that requires you to purchase the entire thing just to get the few tracks you haven’t already bought at least once as part of other albums. It’s less of an issue since the advent of iTunes and the ability to cherry-pick songs that used to be part of a complete package. But back in 2001, when the Barenaked Ladies‘ first such compilation surfaced, there must have been a bit of consternation over it, just like there always is with any such package.

At the time, of course, I couldn’t have known about any of this, because I was a casual fan at best. I’d heard a few of their singles that had found stateside success, and the odd album track from a college roommate (who happened to frequently indulge in his copy of Gordon before a lot of folks in the U.S. had discovered the band) and later a girlfriend who liked the band enough to own a few albums (one of them being Stunt, which had its share of off-putting songs). I had sampled some stuff from Maroon back in the fledgling days of Napster. It wasn’t until I made an offhand remark to a Canadian friend who was big on the band that I had been meaning to check out more of their stuff, and she decided that was a perfect excuse to get me a little Christmas present, that I ended up acquiring my copy of Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits. Released in 2001, and containing a whopping 19 tracks, this disc does a bang-up job of giving an overview of the band’s first decade. Playing almost like a mixtape, which gives room for a few live moments and non-album rarities that might otherwise feel out of place, this was one of those discs that just couldn’t seem to leave my car stereo. Within the space of a few weeks, I went from not knowing most of the band’s classic songs to becoming a huge fan.

Looking back a good ten years later (which means that the oldest songs present on this compilation have just surpassed the twenty year mark), I still think just as highly of Disc One. Especially in the wake of Steven Page‘s departure from the band in 2009 and Ed Robertson and the rest of the guys managing mostly pleasant, but not particularly witty, output in his absence, it warms the heart to go back to the early days when these two nerdy Canadians and their bright, sparkling acoustic guitars were two peas in a pod (later joined by the crisp upright bass and playful piano of Jim and Andy Creeggan, and finally the energetic percussion of Tyler Stewart, rounding out the pod to five), crafting goofy little novelty songs that occasionally sideswiped you with a little something profound when you were least expecting it. Their gradual morphing into the big-name, radio-friendly pop act that hit it big on American radio in the late 90s and has remained trapped in between the two worlds ever since is well-documented here, with the track listing often jumping back and forth between the two in a way that flows surprisingly well in spite of itself. I think that’s a good thing. Chronological compilations tend to bore me. I can go back and put all the singles in order myself; it takes a keen ear to juxtapose new and old in a way that makes both equally enjoyable and demonstrates how all of it was vital to the band’s history. There will always be the naysayers who can’t accept anything the band came up with after Gordon, or since they “sold out” with Stunt, and sure, it was a bit of a bumpy road after 2001, but I still love ’em and I get something out of all the band’s albums regardless. Song-for-song, though, this collection might just be better than any of ’em. Aside from one or two glaring omissions, it does everything that a best-of compilation is supposed to do, and it does it exceptionally well.

INDIVIDUAL TRACKS:

1. The Old Apartment
The sudden jolt of an electric guitar depicting the vindictive tomfoolery of breaking into an apartment you no longer live in is, strangely enough, a fitting opening for a retrospective disc featuring a band with a knack for exploring relationships from rather odd perspectives. As much as I like to tout “One Week” as the single that opened the floodgates, in truth it was this punchy little song that first broke the BNL through to the American mainstream. And for good reason – as one of the BNL’s more rock-oriented songs, it really packs a punch, while telling a story that is equal parts humorous and sad, as Steven Page’s little temper tantrum about all of the old objects and appliances that he wants back finds all of these things linking back to memories of a place where he and a lover were once happy. This is one of only two songs from Born on a Pirate Ship to make the cut, but since that’s the band’s weakest album thus far, I’m mostly okay with that.
Grade: A

2. Falling for the First Time
Jumping forward in time to Maroon, which was practically still brand-spankin’-new at the time Disc One was released, we find the guys all playing their butts off in this lively exercise in contradictions. It’s one of Ed Robertson’s finest moments as a songwriter, as each line of each verse makes a statement of bravado only to immediately retract it: “I’m so brave, too bad I’m a baby/I’m so fly, that’s probably why it feels just like I’m falling for the first time.” It’s the rare song that manages to be both optimistic and realistic at the same time, noting that mistakes are a healthy part of life, and that falling in love has this weird habit of making proud, smart people feel like they suddenly have no idea what they’re doing. It’s amazing how well the whole thing hangs together given its cluttered, chaotic nature – it shakes and stutters all over the place like a nervous bag of bones and yet it’s one of the group’s most accessible, irresistible pop songs.
Grade: A

3. Brian Wilson

The first of the songs from Gordon to appear (and there are many, since it’s almost undoubtedly the best BNL album from their pre-mainstream days, possibly even overall) actually isn’t the version that first appeared on Gordon. There have been a great many takes of this one over the years, and apparently the Ladies felt that the live version from Rock Spectacle best captured the energy of the song. It’s certainly one of those that sneaks up on you, going from acoustic sensitive to upbeat and peppy to full-on frenetic in just under five minutes. Like a great number of BNL songs, it’s easy to write this one off at first glance, as Steve tells his sad-sack story of dreaming that he’s an overweight and uninspired musician. Just when you’re not sure how you can take a song about “Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did” seriously, you discover the little psychology references and the very human fears of becoming irrelevant over time. I’m not sure which was more mind-blowing for Page – the fact that the former Beach Boys frontman himself eventually covered the song, or the fact that Smile, in a roundabout way, did finally get completed after all those years of writer’s block. What’s mind-blowing for me, as a listener, is the insane breakdown at the end where Ed’s acoustic guitar, Jim’s bass, and Kevin’s piano are all falling all over themselves trying to outpace each other. (Kevin was brand new to the band when this was recorded, so let’s just say this was an excellent way to break him in.)
Grade: A

4. One Week

If you know only one BNL song, there’s an extremely good chance that this is it. It was inescapable during the summer of 1998, and it’s still one of those tunes that readily comes to mind whenever the subject of songs with motor-mouth lyrics and/or dorky white guys trying to rap comes to mind. I often say that it’s my favorite BNL song, but I also recognize that it’s conjured up a great deal of unfair expectations for the band, since anyone who hadn’t heard them prior to this might have assumed the faux-rap thing was part of their usual style, and thus been disappointed by all attempts to follow it up with another radio hit (to the point where “Testing 1, 2, 3” and possibly even “Pinch Me” made sly references to their frustration with it). It’s a just-for-fun track that may have started its life as an account of a knock-down drag out fight in which both parties were too proud to apologize, but which ended up taking a non-sequitur detour due to Ed’s frequently hilarious, stream-of-consciousness verses. I think it’s endured not just because of the novelty (and sure, it’s hella fun to sing along to), but because it’s such a neatly packaged introduction to the wackier side of both Steve and Ed’s personalities. It’d be just like these guys to get so busy going off on mental tangents about cartoons and sports and whatnot that they completely forget what they’re fighting with their girlfriends about. Chance are that when a woman is chewing a guy out, stuff like this might be what goes through his mind as he pretends to listen. Anyway, saying it’s my favorite BNL song doesn’t mean by a long shot that what’s great about the band starts and ends here. It’s for this reason that I’m glad they actually gave us a teeny glimpse at the history that preceded it and a newer single that doesn’t rely on the rappy stuff before this one showed up on Disc One, rather than predictably sticking it at track one just because it’s their biggest hit.
Grade: A

5. Be My Yoko Ono

It’s easy to think that Gordon was full of nothing but songs about name-dropping celebrities, judging from some of its most well-known cuts. This one follows right on the heels of “Brian Wilson” in its discussion of a contentious figure whose behavior may or may not have led to the breakup of a great band. But instead of making the usual jokes at Yoko’s expense, this upbeat little acoustic ditty seeks to exonerate her, saying “I don’t like all those people slagging her for breaking up the Beatles“, because hey, if you were as much in love with someone special as John Lennon was with Yoko, wouldn’t you throw it all away to be with her, too? It’s a bit naive of a sentiment, but at the same time it’s cute and witty as hell. Hardcore Beatles fans (and there are a few floating around out there) probably resented this one when it first came out, but love it or hate it, this is one of those early BNL songs that just refuses to be overlooked.
Grade: B

6. Alternative Girlfriend

As much as the band may regret the overblown budget that resulted in Maybe You Should Drive being one of those “nice, but not quite memorable” albums doomed to forever live in Gordon‘s shadow, it did give us this cute little song, one of the first BNL tracks to really focus on the electric guitar, which is fitting given its discussion of “alternative” culture and how that led seemingly everyone involved to buck whatever conventional labels they could. (It isn’t a “grunge” song by a long shot, but you know, compared to everything they’d done up until this point, I guess you could call it “alternative”.) Steve’s description of an “Are they or aren’t they?” relationship, where you’re never quite sure whether it only ever existed in his mind, is full of these fun little descriptions that lead you to expect one thing, only to yank it out right from under you at the last second: “You’re in an all-girl band, your futon’s second hand/Your parents understand, but you don’t care/I have a job in a shop, I’m an undercover cop/I make sure the customers aren’t thieves.” That and the impeccable vocal harmonies in the chorus are the strong points of a song that might otherwise be too cutesy for its own good.
Grade: B

7. It’s Only Me (The Wizard of Magicland)

The first of two new songs written for the project is classic Steven Page in some ways – he’s once again taking an unusual perspective on relationships and exploiting it for humor and possible satire. Except this time, he’s turning it all in on himself, intentionally writing the most narcissistic love song he can think of, basically a defense for being in love with himself. It boasts the same sort of wacky, madcap action as the average upbeat song from Stunt or Maroon (with a big keyboard hook that Kevin apparently insists you can sing the parenthetical subtitle along to), though it’s not quite top shelf material compared to the songs around it. Page has a truckload of clever lines here, but admittedly it’s a bit difficult to get over the ick factor once you realize the full implications of such a love affair. (To be fair, it’s not the first Barenaked Ladies song to allude to such a thing.)
Grade: B-

8. If I Had $1000000

Before “One Week”, this was the Barenaked Ladies’ most famous song – and I’d probably still consider it their signature song. It seems like this one did a good job of permeating the land below the 49th parallel, despite never really being a single in the “official” sense even in its home country – radio stations just liked it and played the heck out of it anyway (and isn’t that the way radio’s supposed to work?) I’m willing to bet you’ve heard this one. The classic bantering between Ed and Steve, going off on their increasingly ridiculous tangents about what they’d do with a million dollars (which is probably a paltry sum compared to what this song has actually racked up for them over the years), dropping about a billion pop-culture references in the process and just having a good giggly time in the process, is the kind of thing you just can’t forget. The beauty of it is that it’s not just a novelty song – for all of its inherent jokiness, it’s quite sound on a musical level, with the looping acoustic riff, the accordion and violin, and the gang of backing vocals that chimes in on the final chorus all making a grand case for the richness of the band’s sound during their early years. It was intentionally out of step with anything that could have even remotely been considered “cool” in the early nineties, But that was part of the charm. It’s a versatile enough song to still be a live staple for the band today, which I’m told can go on for upwards of ten minutes as Ed and Steve (or I guess it’s Ed and Kevin nowadays) make up new lyrics practically on the spot. Hey, if you’re gonna have to play one song night after night, it might as well be one you can have fun with.
Grade: A

9. Call and Answer

The third single from Stunt was one that I figure must have been a tough sell for a lot of people, since it completely bucks the zany, catchy nature of most of the band’s singles – in fact, it’s one of their most serious and stubbornly downbeat songs. It’s so even-tempered and mild-mannered at first that I initially found myself wondering how it would ever get off the ground. The truth is, it’s a tour de force for Steven Page, since it sneaks up on you like nothing else when you realize just how much fury is pent up in what initially sounds like a downbeat breakup song. He did this to us before, on Born on a Pirate Ship‘s “Break Your Heart”, but here, if you’re not paying attention to the lyrics, you might miss it entirely. At first it just sounds like two ex-lovers are getting together for a post-mortem, maybe to finally say they’re sorry after the stalemate depicted in “One Week” and to get some closure, but as it wears on, Steve gradually realizes she’s there to passive-aggressively play the blame game. As the song reaches its highest point of intensity in the bridge (it’s still slow-paced, but Steve’s milking some unorthodox chord changes for all the drama they’re worth), he goes on the offensive with one hell of an ultimatum: “I’m warning you, don’t ever do/Those crazy, messed up things that you do/If you ever do, I promise you/I’ll be the first to crucify you.” Yee-ouch! That’s the kind of thing that I figure a guy can’t write unless he’s been through it. In some ways, this song was a precursor to Page’s solo career, since the rest of the band is largely downplayed (to the point where there’s a rather fruitless bridge where Kevin’s piano just wanders about for a bit that honestly doesn’t even need to be there), and the only backing vocals are just Page looped a few times for dramatic effect. It’s especially bittersweet hearing it nowadays, knowing that it was the last song Page performed live with the band, and that things between him and Ed apparently didn’t end well.
Grade: A

10. Get in Line

Sometimes, rarities are rare for a reason. That seems to be the case with this leftover that showed up between Stunt and Maroon, which was on the King of the Hill soundtrack (which the band themselves admitted that like ten people bought… and man, has that show really been on for that long?) Ed’s trying his darndest to be humorously paranoid, as if some strange cult were trying to recruit him and anyone he tries to tell about it thinks he’s certifiably insane. But the band is so busy being quirkily off-key (yeah, “quirkily” is a word that I just made up – deal with it!) that they almost forgot to give it a tune, which probably explains this song’s platry chart performance. Since there were some singles from albums that didn’t make the cut, I’m kind of scratching my head at the inclusion of this one – I guess it’s a lure for completists, but I don’t really find it all that amusing outside of one or two little quips. It’s just awkward from beginning to end, and not in a fun way.
Grade: C

11. It’s All Been Done

The opening one-two punch of Stunt was a blessing and a curse, since it went straight from “One Week” into this delightful follow-up single, and then nothing on the rest of the record was nearly as “grabby” (it has its moments, but as a whole I still can’t get into most of that album). In terms of upbeat, radio-friendly numbers, I’d cite this as a good example of the BNL’s signature sound, on the extremely poppy end of rock, thanks to the zippy guitars and little bits of keyboard and/or synthesizer that often make their way into the proceedings. The band’s also quite good at peeking behind the usual cliches of relationship songs and asking what really makes those things tick (often subverting them in the process), so this song about a complete and utter failure to find new ways to say “I love you” fits their personality perfectly. It’s a song about cliches, and while writing such a thing has almost become a cliche in and of itself in the post-modern era of pop music, the idea still seemed to have a lot of life to it in 1998. Steve sings like he’s known some girl literally throughout all of recorded history, and he’s tried everything that mankind has ever thought of to make her feel special, only to come up short as he realizes “(Whoo-hoo-hoo!) It’s all been done!” (As I noted in my review of All Star United‘s debut album, that chorus hook is dangerously close to ASU “Beautiful Thing”, but that one’s actually predates “It’s All Been Done” by a year, and I highly doubt the Ladies had ever heard of ASU, so this exonerates both bands of the plagiarism charge.) It’s amazing how a band can be so cynical and still put such a huge smile on my face.
Grade: A

12. Jane

Here’s another tender ballad that I fell in love with quite easily – the richness of the layered vocals and intertwining acoustic instruments is just one of those things that I can’t ignore. I was quite surprised to discover later on that this was actually the lead track on Maybe You Should Drive – it’s gutsy to open an album with something like that, but then I think about future BNL classics like “Adrift” or “You Run Away” and I realize that those probably got placed where they were because of this little gamble that paid off. It’s all about the folly of falling in love with a woman you can never have, one who is convinced that men are heartless scoundrels and who probably got Steve’s attention exactly because she was such a challenge. The song is so devoted in its lush description of her personality and yet so gravely aware of the “So close, yet so far” nature of their relationship, since he’s actually living with the girl and she still won’t let him in. Yikes.
Grade: A

13. Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Now here’s a rarity that I’m sure a lot of BNL fans, whatever their misgivings about the track selection elsewhere on this disc, were probably happy to finally have on an album. In many ways, it’s the genesis of the band, or at least their first instance of bona fide success, as this cover recorded for a Bruce Cockburn tribute album ended up becoming their first radio hit. It predates Gordon even if it might not predate all of that album’s songs (which were floating around on independently released cassette tapes before that point). And there’s something so pure and simple about its simple, repeating, three-chord progression that sounds especially powerful as these two guys pick away at it and raise their voices in beautiful harmony, with piano and cello adding an extra measure of grace to the mix, and the pace of Tyler’s drums gradually quickening as the song reaches its climax. Cockburn’s poetic lyrics on the fragile and yet ferocious nature of love are an ideal precedent for some of Ed and Steve’s later musings on the subject (even if Cockburn’s words seem downright optimistic compared to a lot of BNL songs which are pretty candid in their illustration of what love is not). If you’re a U2 fan and you were wondering what singer Bono was referring to in “God Part II” when he says he heard a guy on the radio singing, “Gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight”, then well, that’s this song, and you’d do well to either seek out this version or the original.
Grade: A

14. Pinch Me

As mentioned earlier, this was one of the singles that attempted to capitalize on and/or snark about the success of “One Week”. Ed’s got another delicious faux-rap part to wrap his tongue around here, though this time it’s the chorus instead of the verse, and it’s all in service of a little self-deprecating existential angst. “Take your time, is the way I rhyme gonna make you smile/When you realize that a guy my size might take a while/Just to try to figure out what all this is for.” Since the verses describe idyllic summer days and wanting to get out of town on a vacation from reality, you can tell that there’s no real pretense of being fed up with life here – it’s just armchair philosophizing for the fun of it. This is, of course, the song that contains the infamous “underwear” line that Ed probably should have known better than to put in a song – it’s an amusing enough gag, but given how much trouble they were already have with fans throwing Kraft dinner at them during live performances of “If I Had $1000000”, did they really need to tempt people to throw undergarments as well? Getting past the goofiness of it, I’ve come to enjoy the finger-picked acoustic guitar loop that pins down the rhythm of the song, as well as the “hazy” guitar solo in the outro, so there’s more to the song than just the joke factor.
Grade: A

15. Shoe Box

This frenetic little oddity felt tacked on at the tail end of Born on a Pirate Ship, and it feels like no less of an intruder here. I know it was an important single for the band (the amped-up radio remix is presented here rather than the album version), and it even won them a bit of cross-promotion by way of showing up on the Friends soundtrack. But the story, about a lovestruck teenager trying to hide an affair with an older woman, while simultaneously hiding his age from her, honestly kind of icks me out. It’s not like it lays on an excessive amount of TMI or anything… you probably wouldn’t even know the nature of the relationship if you’d never read the band’s thoughts on the song (as contained in Disc One‘s liner notes). But it’s one of those things that, once I know it, I can’t un-know it, and the image of Steven Page as jailbait just isn’t something I want in my head. The melody also has this rapid, zig-zagging quality, that normally you’d think I would like, but for some strange reason it just kind of makes me seasick. Like a lot of middling BNL songs from the mid-to-late-90s, it’s chock full of unusual details that don’t really seem to connect into fully coherent thoughts, even to the point where a wandering bridge full of nothing but weak “La-dee-ya”s unexpectedly leads to a somewhat abrupt ending for the song. The slapdash nature of it all puts me at a distance from the story… which might be a good thing? Eh, I don’t know. Let’s move on.
Grade: C

16. What a Good Boy

A lot of folks don’t give the Ladies credit for being more than a novelty act, but they’ve had mellower, more vulnerable songs since their very first album, and arguably this is one of the most well-known examples. Steve is pretty clearly hung up on the notion that boys and girls have the weight of expectation dropped on them from the moment they are born – “What a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy”, or “What a good girl, what a smart girl, what a pretty girl”. There’s a rebellious streak in him that wants to buck the trend, which leads to a bit of angst: “I go to school, I write exams/If I pass, if I fail, if I drop out, does anyone give a damn?” (Since this too is a live version from Rock Spectacle, I have to laugh at the one dude in the audience who can be faintly heard hollering his approval at this line.) His station in life, and that of the pretty girl he’s writing this song for, would dictate that they shouldn’t waste their time with each other, but that’s the temptation that he wants so badly to give in to. I felt the emotional tug of this song even when I first heard it way back in ’96, but as I really got to know it and I dug more deeply into the lyrics, I’ll admit I got hung up on some of its odd metaphors. He sure likes the word “hairshirt”. I don’t know that I’d put so much weight on such an odd word if it were up to me. Stuff like that is what keeps this song out of my personal Top 10, but I can still appreciate that it’s a classic loved by many of the group’s fans, and one of the first of many soul-baring moments for Steven Page.
Grade: B

17. Too Little Too Late

You could almost accuse Steven Page of plagiarizing himself with this one, due to how closely this opening track from Maroon seems to resemble “It’s All Been Done”. However, the extremely loud handclaps (which make it happily dorky enough that you’d know it was Barenaked Ladies even if nobody was singing) and page’s admissions of regret help set apart from the usual pop song, assuring that there’s still plenty to dig into even after the huge, giddy hook wears off. Here, a character confronts his own selfishness and narcissism, wondering if it’s too late to fix a relationship that was jeopardized by his behavior. it probably is, but he’ll have some fun dismantling himself in the process: “I’m gaining strength, trying to learn to pull my own weight/I’m gaining pounds at the precipice of Too Late.” It’s interesting how that line comes in as a bridge after the second verse, only to return to the chorus and then another bridge. it takes a little detour from the expected structure of a pop song, which is a little something I always appreciate in a songwriter. Also? I love the fakeout ending, where everything gets still and silent, like the conventional last note of a song, only for that note to linger, and then… CRASH! That makes a killer segue into just about anything.
Grade: A

18. Enid

The moment when this song bursts to life out of its strange, static-drenched, radio intro (which I’m still convinced is an inside joke that I’ll never get) is so iconic, such a great memory of the band showing people for the first time what they could do as a collective unit when they really opened up and pulled out all the stops, that I’ll admit it’s a bit weird to have it buried in the second-to-last slot on this compilation. But thank God it’s here, because it might just be my favorite track from the band’s early days. It’s one big, fast, loud, manic, dorky dance of a song (made even dorkier by the music video), but underneath all the goofiness, it’s actually a pretty sobering look at a relationship that went south. Since I was still reeling from a bad breakup myself when this song first caught my ear in late 2001, it’s was easy to relate to the notion that two young fools who were once in love turned out to realize “We never really knew each other anyway.” Steve proceeds to chalk most of that abandoned relationship up to his own immaturity, and he pulls no punches when describing some of the vindictive thoughts that went through his head when she dumped him. The details are almost embarrassing at times, but how many of us have been there, making declarations of long-lasting love that we were way too young to even understand, let alone carry out? Ed and Steve are such a great tag team here, both of them going full-throttle on their acoustic guitars while Jim’s remarkably crisp upright bass holds its own quite nicely, just as it did in “Brian Wilson”. There’s even a trumpet, just to make the whole thing sound more epic and paradoxically desperate, just as Steve starts to declare all of the little ways that he can suddenly grow up just to prove how mature he is. He tears it all down with a flippant line that says so much in so few words – “I can do it all for you… but I don’t want to!” (Then Ed keeps going on in the background, as a counterpoint to Steve’s final chorus. I love it when those two intertwine like that, and it’s something that I’ll miss dearly now that Steve is gone.)
Grade: A

19. Thanks That Was Fun

The disc closes with another new song, this time written and sung by Ed. It’s a breakup song, and a rather bitter and sarcastic one at that, and I won’t lie, it makes me wince a bit now that Steve is no longer in the band (even though at the time, it obviously had nothing to do with him). Sticking it at the end of this disc was probably alarming to fans at the time who might have interpreted it as a farewell from the band, which of course it wasn’t. Still, it’s an amusing kiss-off to an ex who apparently decided to call the guy’s bluff by letting him leave when he threatened to. (She even walked him to the bus stop! The audacity!) it was just a ploy to manipulate her feelings, but her slowly realizes that he just ended up manipulating himself, because now she thinks she’s better off and he kind of wants her back. Whoops! Even for a single that could have just been a tossed-off promotional item, the band clearly put a lot of thought into it, even going so far as to make a music video consisting of scenes from all of their other music videos, with their mouths manipulated to make it look like they’re singing this song instead. It’s easily up there with the BNL’s best work.
Grade: A

WHAT GOT LEFT OUT?

The only thing I can truly criticize Disc One for, aside from a song or two that isn’t quite up to the collection’s otherwise high standards, is the lack of a few key tracks that seem to be fan favorites to the point where it would have been logical to include them. I realize that 19 tracks packed the CD to capacity, so including everything else would have required omitting one of the tracks mentioned above. Still, I’m surprised that Gordon‘s “Box Set”, the track that gave this compilation its name, wasn’t included. It’s an ingenious song that describes the pitfalls of being an aging artist with “some stupid number one hit single” that makes your fans just want to hear the old days all over again, instead of whatever new things you’d want to try. Those youngin’s hadn’t even experienced true fame yet when they wrote it, but they were so aware of the pitfalls of the industry that they pretty much predicted their own dilemma with “One Week” (and thus “Box Set” should have been immediately before or after “One Week” on this disc, just for maximum irony).

Of course, if it were up to me, I’d have wanted to include a few personal favorites that would have definitely pushed this thing out to two discs: Gordon‘s dorky high school anthem “Grade 9” and the remarkably tender “Wrap Your Arms Around Me”, Born on a Pirate Ship‘s gut-wrenching “Break Your Heart”, Stunt‘s manic “Who Needs Sleep?” and the surprising lullaby “When You Dream”, and Maroon‘s subversive one-two punch of office politics and just politics in general, “Conventioneers” and “Sell, Sell, Sell”. None of those songs were hits (most weren’t even singles), but they’re high points that made all the albums worth digging through even though none of them turned out to be quite as consistent as Gordon.

WHAT’S IT WORTH TO ME?
The Old Apartment $1.75
Falling for the First Time $1.75
Brian Wilson $1.75
One Week $2
Be My Yoko Ono $1.25
Alternative Girlfriend $1
It’s Only Me (The Wizard of Magicland) $.75
If I Had $1000000 $2
Call and Answer $1.50
Get in Line $.50
It’s All Been Done $1.75
Jane $1.75
Lovers in a Dangerous Time $1.75
Pinch Me $1.75
Shoe Box $.50
What a Good Boy $1
Too Little Too Late $1.75
Enid $2
Thanks That Was Fun $1.75
OMISSIONS:
Box Set –$1
TOTAL: $27.25

BAND MEMBERS:
Steven Page: Lead vocals, guitar (1988-2009)
Ed Robertson: Lead vocals, guitar (1988-present)
Jim Creeggan: Bass guitar, double bass, vocals (1990-present)
Andy Creeggan: Piano, keyboards, guitar, percussion (1990-1995)
Tyler Stewart: Drums, percussion, vocals (1990-present)
Kevin Hearn: Piano, keyboards, synths, guitar, mandolin, accordion, vocals (1995-present)

LISTEN FOR YOURSELF:
http://open.spotify.com/album/3XHEreZGCpDgR2joJ2SV8K

WEBSITES:
http://www.bnlmusic.com
http://www.facebook.com/barenakedladies

(Now where‘s my Disc Two? It’s been ten more years and… oh, right. They had to leave it blank ’cause some other label bought ’em.)

Originally published on Epinions.com.

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2 thoughts on “Barenaked Ladies – Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001: What a Good Band, What a Smart Band, What a Witty Band

  1. Pingback: Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything: What a Perfect Waste of Time. | murlough23

  2. Pingback: Barenaked Ladies – Grinning Streak: In which they fail to exceed the posted limits | murlough23

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