Some Barenaked Love

I remember the first time I heard these off-beat Canadian rockers, thinking they’d be a flash in the pan. As it turns out, they spent years in the spotlight. They dominated the non-Grunge rock scene of the 90’s from their fantastic 1992 debut release of Gordon through the 2000 release of Maroon. Their song-writing was different, and the lyrics more creative and interesting than anything we’d heard in years.  Over that decade, powered by the creative duo of Ed Robertson and Steven Page, they sold nearly 30 million albums, and developed a huge and loyal fan base.

Here’s my take on their Top 12 tunes, including my favorite lyrics from each. You’ll notice that there’s not much after the 90’s, as I admittedly lost some interest after the 2003 release of the mediocre Everything To Everyone, and Steven Page’s subsequent legal/drug problems and ultimate parting of ways with the band.

So, here’s the RARA’s Farm Farmer’s Dozen, including a bonus track:

Bonus Track: “Uncle Elwyn” – this is a hidden track on 1996’s Rock Spectacle.  It’s one of their infamous spontaneous raps, focused on Ed’s video-crazed uncle.  Favorite Lyric:“Elywn is tall, Elwyn is small, Elwyn plays a mean basketball.”

12.  “Hello City” – this is the first song off of their debut album Gordon.  I love the way the stand-up bass dominates this song. A great way to kick-off a fantastic album. Favorite Lyric: “The same people, the same drinks, the same music, the same quicksand.”

11. “Never is Enough” – One of my favorites from 1998’s Stunt, the album that thrust the band into International stardom. This one features Ed on vocals. Favorite Lyric: “The world’s your oyster shell, but what’s that funny smell?”

10. “”I’ll Be That Girl” – OK, I’ll admit it, I really don’t have a clue what it’s about, but I love singing along with this happy ditty, where I think Steven sings about killing the girl of his dreams. Favorite Lyric: “Then even a eunuch won’t resist the magic of a kiss, from such as me.”

9. “Pinch Me” – This was the big hit off of Maroon, and another one featuring Ed’s rap stylings. It’s infectious and was a hit with the masses. Favorite Lyric: “I could hide out under there, I just made you say ‘underwear.”

8. “Alcohol” – This one rocks, and got some nice airplay on rock stations.  Now, if I was only at least a little familiar with the subject of the song 🙂 Favorite Lyric: “Forget the cafe lattes, screw the raspberry iced tea. A Malibu and Coke for you, a G & T for me.”

7. “What a Good Boy” – Another pick from Gordon, This is a beautiful song about a young man coming to grips with life, Page’s vocals are perfect! Favorite Lyric: “Afraid of change, afraid of staying the same, when temptation calls we just look away.” 

6. “Brian Wilson” – Yup, another one from Gordon. It starts with Page driving to a record shop and spirals into thoughts on the genius behind the Beach Boys and his struggles with mental illness and obesity. Favorite Lyric: “Wondering where the hell all the love has gone, playing my guitar and building castles in the sun, and singing “Fun, Fun, Fun.”

5. “Old Apartment” – Page sings about breaking into his old apartment and reminiscing about the okay old days and a seemingly rocky relationship.  This song was actually played on  Beverly Hills 90210 (but I was way too hip to have watched that).  This is the only cut from Born On a Pirate Ship on the list. Favorite Lyric: “How is the neighbor downstairs? How is her temper this year? I turned up your TV and stomped on the floor just for fun.”

4. Life, In a Nutshell” – This is the only selection off of 1994’s Maybe You Should Drive. This one is a fun romp through a good relationship, again featuring great vocals and playful lyrics.  Favorite Lyric: “She memorized every pencil crayon color in the boxHer blue-green eyes complement the burnt sienna in her locks.”

3. “Some Fantastic” – This one is a nice collaboration between Robertson and Page, and the most unique song off of their hugely successful 1998 album Stunt.  This one is just different than anything else they’ve done, and that says a lot for this very diverse band. It’s a different take at a love song; the piano, drums, guitar, vocals… all perfect. Favorite Lyric: “And when we’re done we’ll boil ’em down for glue, that we can use to re-adhere your lips to mine if you were here.”

2. “Call and Answer” – A Steven Page masterpiece, featuring his amazing vocals throughout (even the back-up vocals are his). This single off of Stunt captures a couple struggling to reclaim a fractured relationship. Poignant, timeless and passionate!  Favorite Lyric: “I think it’s the getting to the point that is the hardest part.”

1. “1,000,000” – This actually was released on Gordon and then re-appears on Pirate Ship, but I picked the version from Rock Spectacle, their 1996 live album. It starts off as “Grade 9” a great tune of its own accord, and jumps into a rollciking version of $1,000,000 with new lyrics and plenty of audience participation. Fun stuff on a song that captures the essence of these great performers doing what they do best. Favorite Lyric: “Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?”

There you go my Top 12. I’m sure there are many other worthwhile candidates, but at least now you have this cretin’s perspective!

7 thoughts on “Some Barenaked Love”

  1. I love the barenakes ladies!
    You picked some great songs! I don’t know how you narrowed it down to only 12, there are so many good ones.
    I love that you added uncle elwyn in there – that bonus track is hilarious 🙂 nice work!

  2. Well, I would have a hard time compiling a list of 12 since there are so many awesome songs. However, I would have to replace your #2 and #7 and add another to make it a bakers dozen.

    Falling for the First Time – Maroon. I love the lyrics “anyone perfect must be lying, anything easy has it’s cost, anything plain can be lovely, anyone loved can be lost, what if I lost my direction what if I lost the sense of time, what if I nurse this infection, maybe the worst is behind” – then he switches the same lyrics around later in the song!

    One Week – Stunt. Singing along with that song can be a little bit difficult unless you can figure out what he is saying before “like vanilla…it’s the finest of the flavors”. There are so many great lyrics in this song….”Chicken de china, the chinese chicken, you have a drumstick and your brain stops ticking.” “I have a tendency to wear my mind on my sleeve, I have a history of takin’ off my shirt”. Definitely worthy of making the cut!

    And the one I may have to add to make the bakers dozen:

    Too Little Too Late – Maroon. It’s just a fun, upbeat, clapping and singing along adding a little “woo” and “uhh”!!!

    But as I’m currently listening to Stunt – “Who Needs Sleep” may tie up the 13th place. “This guys been awake since the second world war”.

  3. Ok, I agree for the most part, just missing my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE BNL song… “Break Your Heart”. Seriously, not a rockin tune by any means, but this was the college break-up song for me and my friends. Best lines “What’d you think that I was gonna do, Curl up and die just because of you? I’m not that weak, you know.” Followed closely by “How could you be so low? You arrogant man, What do you think that I am? My heart will be fine. Just stop wasting my time.”

    But you totally made me pull out my BNL tonight, and for that I thank you! It’s been a while.

  4. @Kerri – Thanks, and yes, Elwyn is cool!

    @RARA Girl – Excellent choices, too. Falling For the First Time is a very strong pick, and you picked out some great lyrics, but I’ll still take my dozen…

    @Kari – Another good choice. And, you are right, this caused me to crack open my BNL vault, always lots of fun memories.

  5. Nice list! I’ve been a fan for over 20 years, bought their original 4-track album, Buck Naked, for five bucks at the end of a little outdoor show they put on in Montreal during the summer of ’89. One of my favorite songs is still their Bruce Cockburn tribute, Lovers in a Dangerous Time. Steven Page at his absolute finest.

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