Guilty pleasures: Barenaked Ladies – Everything To Everyone (2003)

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There are a couple of kinda odd (and completely unrelated) reasons why I’m reviewing this CD. One is that, after several listens, I’ve found some music here that I really like. The kind that makes me drive too fast. But there’s also some stuff that I just can’t stand. This is an unusual thing for me. I usually either a) totally come on board or b) throw up my hands and yell “PULL!” (more on that later).

The other reason? I read a Barenaked Ladies concert review and learned that they covered Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power.”

So … the love/hate thing. It’s true. There aren’t a whole lot of albums that I can go either way on. Because I tend to focus on the ‘resonant’ (read: musical ‘gut’ says “yea!”) aspects of music, a new record can come along and win me over almost immediately. On the other hand, there are times when a song will come on and I’ll want that thing out of my ears! … Now!! Very seldom though, does a ‘bad’ song show up in the middle of a ‘resonant’ album.

Such was not the case with Everything To Everyone. The opener, “Celebrity,” is a fun pop tune that employs its Beach Boy and Beatle-isms to full effect. “Maybe Katie” is great power pop that uses a wiggly Cars-like synth on its hooky chorus.

But then we have “Another Postcard” (in that Barenaked Ladies style I just can’t deal with) and my index finger heads straight for the “next” button. The good news is that there’s only one more tune that gets that treatment from me: “Shopping.” Despite the cool appearance of Blue Man Group on “PVC percussion,” the song is just too “la la la” for me.

Now, if I ignore the ‘outtakes’ (one is, of course, a huge radio hit) the rest of the album is right in my pop music wheelhouse. Full of some fun tunes spun up in quite a few different styles. “Next Time” is a lilting and catchy epic. “For You” has quite the folk/country flair, with great harmonies (gees, I wish I could sing like that) and cool instrumentation (is that a glockenspiel in there?). “Testing 1, 2, 3” is another fun one that mixes in a little XTC karma. On “Upside Down,” you’re surprised first with a full string section in the introduction … which then morphs into a pop song-cum-tango! (Hint: turn this up loud.) Honestly, there’s not a bad song in the bunch.

And now it’s back to that “Fight The Power” thing. I’ve had a lot of ‘concert conversion’ experiences. And while I haven’t seen these guys live, I’ve heard from several sources that they do put on quite a show. So here’s a meta-concert conversion experience. I don’t know what they do to “Fight The Power” live, but there’s just something appealing and subversive about a Canadian pop band covering Public Enemy.

So, in summary, I guess I love it … and I hate it.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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