By Jesse Brooks
Quarantining for COVID-19 can get pretty weird and it can lead to some pleasant surprises even in the darkest of times.
I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole the other day and basically was reminded of how great the Barenaked Ladies are as a band. They were my favorite before my late teens emo phase. For a kid learning how to play guitar and likely even more interested in songwriting, they were incredible.
If it seems odd that I’m super into the “One Week” goofy white rapping nerd guys, I understand. But these guys had an entire career in Canada, their native country, before that song hit in the U.S. They started as a folk-rock band doing somewhat of a Mumford & Sons thing but much better. They also evolved to incorporate more pop and rock in the songwriting, as well as a sensibility for Kids in the Hall style humor.
See BNL’s forest ever single, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”, in the link here.
After their late 90s hit album Stunt, BNL was successful but just kind of slipped into that ether of commercial adult-contemporary easy listening stuff, eventually becoming known as the guys that do the theme song of “The Big Bang Theory”. Also, singer Stephen Page left the band and their harmonies just aren’t the same. The raw emotion seems gone from the act.
I hadn’t thought much of them since I lost interest and they weren’t doing the folk stuff anymore. Until the rabbit hole showed me the band got honored with a lifetime JUNO Award (like a Canadian GRAMMY) in 2018. They were introduced by fellow Canadian Getty Lee from Rush, who told stories of the band’s importance and weight they carried in Canada, a stark contrast to how they’re viewed in the US.
Then the band took the stage to play “If I had $1,000,00” and everyone that’s a Canadian superstar joined the band on stage, shouting the lyrics at the top of their lungs. Actors, singers, rappers, and entertainers of all kinds were paying tribute to BNL, who I was not aware was one of the biggest acts in that nation’s contemporary history. AND STEVEN PAGE REUNITED WITH THE BAND FOR THE PERFORMANCE!!!
All of this led me to pick up their 1996 live album Rock Spectacle, a Canadian “greatest hits” from their past discography. I forgot how deep those song cut. The songwriting is brilliant and their live performance brought a lot of energy.
Anyway, I kind of understand my origins in music tastes a little better now. Thanks for tuning into this stream of consciousness.
Enjoy some tracks below.