Spin Cycle

When I reviewed All in Good Time, the last Barenaked Ladies studio album, I took a little bit of crap for comparing this version of BNL to the Steven Page version, and it’s probably wise to look at them as two different bands-although I’m not sure it’s realistic. When Page left a few years ago, he took a great deal of the band’s character (not to mention one hell of a voice) with him. Steven was a major reason-the major reason-I liked the band. Not to say I didn’t have love for Ed, Tyler, Kevin and Jim, but removing Steven from BNL is kinda like removing Michael from The Jacksons. Jermaine and Randy are great, but it’s not the same.

Grinnin

Jim Creeggan, Tyler Stewart, Ed Robertson and Kevin Hearn are Barenaked Ladies.

This is not to say Grinning Streak, the brand new Barenaked Ladies album, is bad-it’s not. Actually, I might rank it a hair above All in Good Time in terms of quality. I just can’t say that this iteration of Barenaked Ladies resonates with me nearly as much as their most popular iteration did. If you’re more of a Team Ed guy than a Team Steven guy, though, this album might be right up your alley.

Album gets off to a good start with “Limits,” which rocks a bit harder than the average BNL tune. Still, Ed Robertson’s lyrics are fairly standard fare, as is the song’s melody. I dig the pleasant jangle of “Boomerang,” and “Odds Are” is hand-clapping fun, like a slightly more mature version of “One Week” crossed with Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” Actually, I found myself humming “Party in the U.S.A.” several times over the course of the album…which kinda freaks me out. It certainly fits into “Did I Say That Out Loud?” That particular song is reminiscent of their earlier hit, “Pinch Me.” They’re definitely aiming for the rafters with the choruses, but they’re also recycling their own hits, which is always a bad sign for a band. There are no left turns like, say, “Shopping,” or “Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel.”

I had to give Grinning Streak a couple of listens before it clicked with me at all, but I still say the album runs out of gas about halfway through. Ed Robertson’s lyrics have always been a bit goofy. This quality is occasionally endearing, and occasionally annoying. By the time the odious “Keepin’ it Real” shows up about 2/3 of the way into the album, we have officially reached the “annoying” phase. One other demerit to the album is that the lead vocals don’t seem to be as democratically divided as they were on the last album. The only song on which Ed doesn’t take the lead is “Daydreamin’,” a typically whimsical song sung by keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn.

I’d be wrong to expect anything new from Barenaked Ladies as they approach their 25th anniversary. They do seem to have settled into…well, not a rut, but a very comfortable state of being. Grinning Streak is a good casual listen, but there’s nothing here worth dropping ten or twelve bucks on. Thank goodness for Spotify, I guess.

Grade: B-

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