I have to like you a lot if I’m gonna buy an album of odds and sods from you. So, obviously, you can infer that I like Barenaked Ladies a lot. At least, I liked them enough to consider buying Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before upon getting notified of it’s impending existence by my friends at Popdose several weeks ago. What pushed me over the edge? Previewing the album on Spotify and hearing their raucous (and sadly, timely) cover of The Beastie Boys’ “Shake Your Rump.”  A band that I like a lot (and occasionally love) covering one of my favorite songs by another band that I like a lot (and occasionally love) coupled with the fact that I’ve had Paul’s Boutique on damn near constant repeat for a solid week? I was in there like swimwear.

Calling Stop Us a rarities album is a bit of a misnomer. Even if you’re a casual BNL fan, you’ve very likely heard a few of these songs in one iteration or another. “One Week” (presented here in a remixed version that adds a slight hip-hop thump) is, of course, the one song that even people who aren’t familiar with Barenaked Ladies know. There’s also a demo version of the hit “The Old Apartment” performed by Steven Page on acoustic guitar. A handful of other songs on this compilation are early or alternate versions of songs that appeared on later BNL albums like Barenaked Ladies Are Me and Barenaked Ladies Are Men. Pull out “Shake Your Rump,” and you’re left with about 6 songs and not much incentive to purchase unless you’re a diehard. Casual fans definitely need not bother.

For the rest of us, I’d say Stop Us is worth owning. Personally, I junked my copy of Are Men within months of buying it, and Steven’s raspy croon on “I Can, I Will, I Do” is good enough to make me wonder if I bailed on that particular album a bit too early. The alternate version of “Adrift” (from Are Me, an album I still own and pull out reasonably often) is, to my ears, superior to the version that was given a formal release. It’s a bit more dreamscape-y and less radio-friendly.

What Stop Us really makes me realize is that I miss Steven Page. Well, that’s not accurate. After all, Mr. Page is still with us, and still records music. Good music. What I really miss is Barenaked Ladies with Steven Page. The live track “Teenage Wasteland” is a reminder of the chemistry that Steven and Ed Robertson had, and even though many of the tracks on this compilation heavily feature one or the other, the fact of the matter is that I fell in love with BNL because of the work the two did together. They’ve moved on, but I kinda wish they hadn’t. Or at least wish they would reconsider. Even if it’s temporary. God, I sound desperate.

I’d probably say I enjoy Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before more than I’ve enjoyed the Barenaked Ladies’ last two studio albums, but this is definitely not the place to go if you are either a casual fan or just discovering the band. Completists will be happy with it, and for that reason alone I’ll give it a B. But unless you’re someone that needs to have everything the guys have ever recorded (or you’re someone who misses Steven and Ed together) you won’t lose anything by skipping it.

Grade: B

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