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Barenaked Ladies – All in Good Time

on April 14, 2010, 8:00am
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Steven Page, co-founding member of Canada’s Barenaked Ladies, announced he was leaving the band early last year, leaving most fans puzzled over his departure. Granted, Page dealt with some legal issues which we won’t go into here, but there can’t be a Barenaked Ladies without Steven Page. Right? The same can be said for his lifelong friend, guitarist Ed Robertson. If either of these Ladies were no longer in the picture, then the Barenaked Ladies cannot exist.

Wrong! All in Good Time marks the first album from the Ladies sans Page, and does, in fact, exist. From the solemn, black-and-white album cover to the first single, it’s clear the remaining members are completely aware that someone is missing. The new album could have featured colorful artwork, wall-to-wall trademark goofiness with genuine ballads here and there, but it wouldn’t have been honest. But is it any good? At the end of the day, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. It doesn’t reach the heights of their nineties output, but the future may still be bright for the quartet.

“You Run Away” is a winner, plain and simple. In interviews, Robertson alludes to the fact that he sings to Page during this accusatory and frustrated first single off the album. It’s the bleakest opener the band has had, light years away from Stunt’s “One Week” from over a decade ago. With “You Run Away” placed at the beginning of the album, the band addresses their new identity, and gets on with it. Perfect placement with great harmonies still intact at the song’s climax, despite Page’s absence.

Robertson writes and sings lead on half of the tracks, while pianist Kevin Hearn and bassist Jim Creeggan find themselves responsible for the rest. While fair songwriters, neither Hearn nor Creeggan hold a torch to Page’s prior heights. Hearn’s vocals are too hesitant to deliver a great pop song, so “Another Heartbreak” doesn’t quite take off. He finds more success in the quirky “Jerome”, which has a nice outro sure to get stuck in your head. Hearn’s third and final contribution also closes the album, so no pressure there. “Watching the Northern Lights” is a bit bland and proves the band could have done with some editing.

Creeggan’s “On the Lookout” spends too much time looking about and not actually doing anything, but his other contribution to All in Good Time soars. He has a stronger voice than Hearn, and as he sings “I won’t let you down” in “I Saw It”, it comes off sweet, not syrupy. “I Saw It” serves as a call for the band to tighten up their future releases, because the additional songwriting talent is possibly there within Creeggan.

But what of the other Robertson tracks? When an album is criticized for being too long, usually it’s the back-end of the recording that takes the sharp end of the stick. On All in Good Time, it’s quite the opposite. On the first half, Robertson’s “Summertime” and “Four Seconds” are C-list Ladies, with the latter serving as a limp rap reminder to the good old days of “One Week” and “Grade 9”. “Ordinary” is just that.

However, when Robertson isn’t concerned with recapturing old glories, he shines on his later contributions. “I Have Learned” has a hard-edge to it (well, as hard edge as the Ladies can get), with a bit of lingering anger from the past couple years. The trifecta of the yearning “Every Subway Car”, the driving “How Long”, and the clap-along triumph that is “Golden Boy” prove that the band still has it.

So, again, the quality of the album is about half-and-half. Is Page missed? Certainly. Just think of All in Good Time as the band’s A Saucerful of Secrets. The Ladies are still working things out, so there’s no need for them to get dressed just yet.

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