Barenaked Ladies “Silverball”

Barenaked Ladies Silverball Review

A couple of years ago I admitted to being a huge Barenaked Ladies fan (I say “admitted” like it’s a bad thing, but it obviously isn’t) and loving the song writing duo that was Ed Robertson and Steven Page, praising them for the hits and many many other gems they’ve written both together and separately. In my review for their previous album Grinning Streak, which you can read here, I mentioned how Ed and the boys did a fantastic job at sounding even more resilient than on its predecessor (and first post-Steven Page album) All In Good Time. Now ever the most comfortable they’ve been in years, BNL have released a new album, Silverball. How does it match up not only to the other Page-less albums, but with all Barenaked Ladies albums in general?

Well one thing is for sure, they sure sound laid back. The first track released from the album was Say What You Want, and in a rare occurrence the song was actually pretty good. I say rare occurrence because more times than none I find the first song released from an album to be underwhelming and find myself hoping the rest of the album is better. Say What You Want doesn’t have the kick that Barenaked Ladies‘ previous lead single Odds Are had for Grinning Streak, but it made for a good way to intrigue fans and other new potential listeners to listen to more of Silverball.

The problem is, when finally hearing the full album, I noticed the tracks that come before Say What You Want are just a little underwhelming. Opening track Get Back Up is louder than I’d have expected, which is welcome, and I enjoy the lyrics, but it’s hook lacks the kick that I know Ed Robertson is capable of. Here Before and Matter Of Time are good songs too, just not what I’d have expected. Yes, the more I listen to them the more I find I like about them, but again I’d use the term underwhelming to describe them. Duct Tape Heart is the first song track from Silverball that I find real significance in. I really dislike the electric drum sound but other than that this is the first time on Silverball that Barenaked Ladies sound like they’re having fun.

Thankfully the rest of Silverball is much better. Save for a couple of tracks, particularly the song Globetrot which I find to be a little forgettable. But really the rest of Ed Robertson‘s songs sound just as well written as I’d expect, like the slow and groovy Hold My Hand and the acoustic Toe To Toe bring back memories of why Ed Robertson is one of my favourite song writers. It’s the tracks Piece of Cake and the title track Silverball that I think can stand as Barenaked Ladies greats. The former of the two shows how BNL can make a song as catchy as it is while having lyrics that are quirky yet really quite brilliant “It was a piece of cake/but making cake’s not easy.” The title track has a very serious sound to it, the most serious that Ed has sounded on the entire album, which makes for a welcome change to Silverball’s sound.

Of course Barenaked Ladies are a multi-vocalist band. Back in the early days the vocals were usually strictly done by Ed Robertson and Steven Page, maybe having Jim Creeggan chime in on a few tracks on the Born on a Pirate Ship album before the mid-2000’s when it became customary for all members, except Tyler Stewart, though he sings a hell of a rendition of Feliz Navidad if you were to see them live. Grinning Streak (the none deluxe version at least) only had one song not sung by Ed, but this time for Silverball we’re back to hearing both Kevin Hearn and Jim Creeggan lend their voices to songs that they penned.

Kevin Hearn, a gifted solo songwriter and an absolutely astounding multi-instrumentalist has sung about two handfuls of songs released on Barenaked Ladies albums, my personal favourite being Snacktime, and he adds two more to that list on Silverball. Passcode is a fun little song that is quirky in a way many of Kevin’s songs can be, and it’s his track Tired of Fighting With You that ends Silverball in melancholy fashion, but ultimately it lacks a certain bite that much of the album lacks. It’s Jim Creeggan who sings what I think I’d have to call my favourite song on the album Narrow Streets. I never thought Jim would be the one to sing my favourite song on any BNL album, though he does have co-writing credit on my favourite Barenaked Ladies song Get In Line, the songs he’s sung with the band have usually tended to be filler tracks to my ears. He stepped up his game on the All In Good Time album with On The Lookout, and he stepped it up even more with the semi-psychedelic and fun Narrow Streets, adding a 90’s vibe that kind of reminds me of something Fastball would have released in their heyday.

Frankly, of the three Steven Page-less albums released by Barenaked Ladies, Silverball would have to be the least significant. It has some great tracks but its worst moments are some of the least enthusiastic moments that I can think of throughout all fourteen of the bands albums. It’s saved by the half of the album that sounds lively and the few songs that I think can go down as some of the best Barenaked Ladies songs ever recorded, such as the title track and Narrow Streets. There will always be that part of me that always wishes Steven Page and the band will make amends, but considering the band doesn’t even acknowledge his existence beyond playing some of the biggest hits sung or co-sung by him, that won’t be happening soon. That was really just a fan thought not an assessment on Silverball. Big fans are sure to like, maybe even love Silverball, but I wouldn’t advise less than familiar listeners so start here.

ALBUM HIGHLIGHT

Piece of Cake” –­ The spirit of Barenaked Ladies is alive and well in this track. A light hearted track with just enough meat to it, Piece of Cake is that perfect spot in between Silverball tracks that shows where they are now is still where long time fans would hope they would be, while also showing newer listeners just how BNL can write a song.

FINAL RATING

7 (Out of 10)

Track List:

1. “Get Back Up” 3:02
2. “Here Before” 3:55
3. “Matter of Time” 3:36
4. “Duct Tape Heart” 3:03
5. “Say What You Want” 3:35
6. “Passcode” 2:35
7. “Hold My Hand” 3:59
8. “Narrow Streets” 2:55
9. “Toe to Toe” 3:16
10. “Piece Of Cake” 3:24
11. “Globetrot” 3:28
12. “Silverball” 4:36
13. “Tired Of Fighting With You” 3:46

 

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