by James Fleming
Apparently, none other then Sir Paul McCartney has said that if he could, he would jam with Barenaked Ladies. I can see that; sickly sweet harmonies, jaunty accompaniment, these songs aren’t a million miles away from the likes of ‘When I’m 64,’ minus the British whimsy and the music hall influence. And, just like McCartney’s music, with the exception of a few notable songs, Barenaked Ladies’ music is boring.
They’ve been described as alternative rock. And there are certain hallmarks here of alternative music: the melding of a rock n’ roll backbeat with the aforementioned harmonies, shimmery acoustic guitar chords. However, what the Ladies are missing, is the alternative.
To call this “alternative” rock is a bit of a stretch. Alternative music is a genre known for its wild experimentation. What has happened though, is that bands have taken some of the safer trademarks of the genre and realised there is a market for this sound. Thus, we have multi-platinum selling fodder.
Their music takes the most radio-friendly aspects of bands like Sugar and The Beatles and strips away all the testosterone and balls. What we’re left with is a career that started in 1988 and has given us whole albums full of mid-paced, unashamedly SAFE tunes. And on a live album no less.
Now, on albums such as The Who’s Live at Leeds and MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, we were gifted with records that really kicked ass. These records were time capsules of excitement, statements of intent by bands of angry young men. BNL Rocks Red Rocks, however, captures none of the passion that a live album should.
The harmonies are pitch perfect, the band is tight, the audience banter is clearly well-rehearsed. But, you can tell that the crowd are merely nodding their heads. This isn’t a record that’s going to set the world afire.
It’s fine. And that’s exactly what’s wrong with it. BNL Rocks Red Rocks does what so many other records do: it coasts along at a comfortable level of alternative and rock n’ roll, so it can be billed as such. It has just the right amount of edge so that it will sell. But, given the state of the record industry, even that’s unlikely.
Barenaked Ladies have given us a record that, just like the live albums mentioned above, will serve as a time capsule. However, this is a time capsule that should best stay buried.