Barenaked Ladies

Everything to Everyone (Reprise)

For the past 15 years, Barenaked Ladies have been considered the court jesters of pop. The members of the Canadian quintet have made a living using their quirky sense of humor, singing and rapping about an odd collection of topics -- "alternative girlfriend," wasabi, Brian Wilson, the joys of having $1 million, a violent car crash and, yup, that old apartment.

The band's 1998 album Stunt was its zany zenith, incorporating all of their best qualities -- adept word play, skilled musicianship and humor. However, on Everything to Everyone, their second record since then, Barenaked Ladies begin to show signs of maturing. "Maybe Katie," for example, takes on dating an older woman with a child: "Just because her youth is fading/It doesn't mean she's not worth dating," sings Steven Page, one of two singers in the band. On the piano-driven "Celebrity," Page sings, "When I'm riding in my limo/I won't look out the window/Might make me homesick for humanity."

Of course, it can never be all reflection and stiff vodka tonics with these guys. Embedded within Everything to Everyone is classic band shtick. The jokes are generally more subtle than the overt offerings of albums past, save for the sprightly first single, the novelty "Another Postcard" (an ode to postcards with chimpanzees on them), which guitarist Ed Robertson raps. "For You" contains the snarky sentiment "I have set aside everything I loved/I have saved everything else for you." And the rolling, atmospheric "Aluminum" starts out sounding like a tender love song but slowly takes a twisted comic turn like a knife in someone's back.

Everything to Everyone highlights another shift in the Ladies' approach, namely Robertson and Page's decision to include bassist Jim Creeggan and keyboardist Kevin Hearn in the songwriting process. Maybe that's not the best approach; while Creeggan churns out quirky hand-clapper "Maybe Katie," Hearn's "Shopping," which features a member of the Blue Man Group on PVC pipe, is indefinitely dull.

But that's one dull moment in a box generally filled with sharp pencils. It seems like Everything to Everyone is a move in the right direction for the Barenaked Ladies, one that may take their credibility farther than the smiley-guy, Gap rap routine they adopted in the late '90s.

 
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