If you’re a band, it goes without saying that losing a member will have an incredible impact on your band dynamic and sound, especially when that member is a founding member and one of your lead singers. That’s the position that Canadian pop/rock band Barenaked Ladies found themselves in when Steven Page abruptly left a year or so ago. While the band’s biggest hits were performed by co-founder/co-lead vocalist Ed Robertson, to me Page was the face and voice of BNL. His chubby, boyish visage made him the band’s most recognizable member (if you can have a recognizable member in a band of five fairly anonymous-looking Canucks), and his voice was a thing of wonder. When I saw BNL perform live in 2001, I was blown away by Page’s vocal skills. I think my actual comment was “Holy shit. This guy should be singing opera!”, but I digress.

Most bands would fold up like a cheap suit after the loss of a key member, but BNL have soldiered on and have just released “All in Good Time”, their 11th studio album. The band was fortunate enough to have two main vocalists, so Page’s loss means that Ed Robertson steps up to the plate a little more than usual. It also means that bassist Jim Creeggan and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn (who has his own nifty little side band called Thin Buckle) get a chance to shine a little more, as they team up to make “All in Good Time” a more democratic effort than any previous BNL project.

“All in Good Time” continues the Ladies’ efforts to move away from the image people have of them as a borderline-comedy band. Truthfully, most of the humor the band has trafficked in since their breakthrough album “Stunt” has been of the dark variety, and “All in Good Time” pretty clearly reveals that Page was the source of most of that dark humor. The lyrics and music on “All in Good Time” are more straightforward than they’ve been on any previous BNL album. That leads to a handful of great pop/rock songs but it also leads to a few tracks that are absolutely boring.

One thing to look out for is the fact that Page’s departure reveals a previously undetectable trace of bitterness in Ed Robertson’s songwriter. “Golden Boy” is a more aggressive rocker, while “You Run Away” is a semi-ethereal ballad, but both songs seem to address Page’s departure. Robertson, never known as the world’s most versatile singer, gives two of his best performances on these songs. It’s obvious that Page’s departure was less-than-amicable, and the fact that it brings out a little bit of a bite in BNL’s music is good for the album as a whole.

Other highlights include “The Love We’re In”, a song that hints at both country and Memphis soul (the two are connected a lot more than one would think) and “Summertime”, which works a loud/soft dynamic in the verses and chorus. Hearn (whose “Hidden Sun” from 2000 is the most poignant musical moment on a BNL album ever) contributes the synth and effect-heavy (but very pretty) album closer “Watching the Northern Lights” and the midtempo rocker “Another Heartbreak”. Hearn’s singing voice can best be described as frail and tentative, but it’s engaging just the same. He’s also prone to esoteric flights of fancy, as evidenced by “Jerome”, which is the story of a ghost town. Also, if you only remember BNL from their #1 hit “One Week”, you’ll want to check out “Four Seconds”. While the volume is lower from a musical and vocal perspective, Robertson proves that he still has a way with free-associative rhyming.

While Hearn and Creeggan both step up to fill the void left in Page’s absence, there’s still the sense that something is missing when you listen to “All in Good Time”. However, that feeling lessens the more you listen to the album (although I should note that I don’t think it’ll ever completely go away). While Steven’s missed, the remaining band members acquit themselves nicely, and “All in Good Time” points the way to a promising future for Barenaked Ladies 2.0.

Be Sociable, Share!