Barenaked Ladies: Talk To The Hand

By: David Van Nostrand

Talk To The Hand: Live in Michigan (Shout Factory) is one hour and seven minutes of harmless pop rock without surprises. Beginning with their biggest radio hit, "One Week" and closing with the obligatory sing-along, "If I Had A Million Dollars," the affable boys from Canada offer fans a "regular BNL show," i.e. songs they know, friendly stage banter and plenty of lite beer.

For more than 15 years, the Barenaked Ladies have been tempering their personal setbacks and private melancholy with wisecracks and lowbrow humor (underwear is a reoccurring theme). Unfortunately, the setbacks and the melancholy (the bits worth singing about) are undermined by the sophomoric comedy. In "The Old Apartment" lead singer Stephen Page struggles to recall what was right about a relationship gone wrong at his former address. The narrator of "Pinch Me" is so bored that he isn't sure that he is actually awake. In both songs, the deeply repressed frustration is palpable and tense, but the drama is diffused by unnecessary punchlines. It's a lot like a person who adds, "Just kidding," to an illuminating but personal observation - it’s cheap.

The Barenaked Ladies have always been too eager to please. Maybe they don't want to bum out their cargo shorted, cooler carrying fans that probably just want to have a good time and hear their favorite songs. Or maybe they really believe that humor is the universal salve. Either way, it doesn’t matter because the fans this album was made for don’t care. They came for a good time, and the Ladies were happy to oblige.

JamBase | Great White North
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http://www.bnlmusic.com/

[Published on: 1/25/08]

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Comments

schofizzl Sat 1/26/2008 01:57AM
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schofizzl

i think this is kind of a harsh review... i have only seen BNL one time and it was totally not what i expected... they rocked the hell out of all their fan favorites and then did odd versions of all the radio hits... they jammed a little, they joked a little, people laughed and people cried and then laughed again at the BNL's insane stage performance filled with a syncronized shopping cart routine featuring overhead cameras and all kinds of dank shenanigans...

now that was a couple of years ago and i haven't heard this cd yet... but i do believe the BNL are one of the realest bands out there who have actually heard their songs on commercial radio... and there are plenty of bands out there who would play the same show on every stop of a tour and nobody would say anything about it...

basically i just think that when reviewing the BNL next time, maybe don't take them so seriously.. because that's not really their angle.

-how can you learn from pain without eventually laughing it off-

snappy Sat 1/26/2008 05:21AM
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snappy

BNL are big enough to host their own "jam cruise" so I think they can take a critical review once in a while. I hate almost all jokey music, which becomes less amusing with each pass. BNL have built a career out of that kind of "wink wink nudge nudge" material. For some that's a good time (which this review points out) for others, well, it's not.

Muffinman1 Sat 1/26/2008 06:42AM
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Muffinman1

Snappy, you say you hate "jokey music", yet you have Ween listed as one of your favorite bands. If Ween isn't "jokey music" wink wink nudge nudge, then I don't know who is.

snappy Sat 1/26/2008 08:07AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

snappy

Ween is capable of sincerity and real musical pathos at times. The silly stuff like "Spinal Meningitus" or the many poop themed numbers leave me equally as cold as most BNL, who sometimes work for me when they get sincere. I'll cop to maybe liking Ween more because they're crude and druggy and weird, whereas BNL has always struck me as too clean cut. Hey, different strokes for different folks. Thanks for digging into my profile to make a point, too!

Muffinman1 Sat 1/26/2008 08:32AM
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Muffinman1

Not tring to be dick snappy, just making a point. I like to investigate before I post, and don't get me wrong, I'm no BNL fan myself, and in fact have no interest in them at all, just making friendly banter.

schofizzl Sun 1/27/2008 03:58AM
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schofizzl

people always regard bnl as jokey... people who don't listen to much bnl... i mean yeah they have a sense of humor which is what gets played up most about them... but they got some darker stuff too... The Flag and many other songs from their first(best?) album Gordon make good examples.

as for the rest... just because it is fun as hell doesn't mean it is not sincere music... not to mention they play the shit out of their instruments

whodoyoudo Sun 1/27/2008 07:12AM
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whodoyoudo

wut about hootie and the blowfish?

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J/K i always kinda equated the 2 bands in my head

dedhed6111 star Sun 1/27/2008 11:10AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

dedhed6111

I remember watching the "Behind the Music" on these guys, and they made a point to say that they got into music strictly to be famous, make money, and get chicks. Sure you could take that as another "jokey" jab, but listening to their music, it seems like they are far more interested in the fame, money, and trim than making real, honest, good music. Personally, I think they absolutely suck, and make a mockery of real music to people in the world who don't really listen to music and aren't affected that much by it. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they played good music on the pop radio instead of chickadeechina the chinese chicken?

dedhed6111 Sun 1/27/2008 11:11AM
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dedhed6111

oh yeah, hootie was a really good band at one time.

Zestystrat Mon 1/28/2008 09:34AM
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My $0.02 is this:

I find it funny that on a site where some pretty weak music (of the Jamband variety) is regularly lauded and pumped up, in some obvious cases by a fan (not an “objective” reviewer / “journalist”), this band gets slammed. It’s vary rare to see a negative review here. Not knocking JB here, because I understand their policy and I think it serves them and the scene well.

While I haven’t heard the CD, comments like “The Barenaked Ladies have always been too eager to please. Maybe they don't want to bum out their cargo shorted, cooler carrying fans that probably just want to have a good time and hear their favorite songs. Or maybe they really believe that humor is the universal salve.” …have less to do with the CD and more with the author’s obvious dislike of the band and their fans. Change the band and dress and we could be talking about any Jamband.

While not a huge fan, when I have seen them live or on TV I find them funny, their songs are clever and to me not pandering. IMO for a Pop band they are on the good side of the fight.

That said, if someone else doesn’t like them or this CD, okay by me – but please, if the reviews are all of a sudden going to be objective, let’s see some on the Jamband side, not the Pop side where they are one of the better bands (or lesser of evils depending on your opinion of them) in the genera.

bagofunk Mon 1/28/2008 12:49PM
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If I had A million dollars, I would consider giving it to the BNL to stop making music. Just a thought.

Smittea starstarstar Mon 1/28/2008 12:49PM
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Smittea

I think the review is fair.... ly biased, but I don't disagree with it. I like the humor that someone like Keller Williams. I think the BNL can be a little more sophomoric at times. I gotta hand it to these guys though, they've really made a very successful career of this shtick.

Conjugal Burning Tue 1/29/2008 09:07AM
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Conjugal Burning

Kudos to BNL for taking advantage of the masses who eat up their stuff regularly, but Does Humor Belong in Music?? As Frank made clear, yes... it does but im sticking with my Zappa bootlegs, Ween, and Flight of the Conchords... those Zealanders are funny

Zestystrat Tue 1/29/2008 09:32AM
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FrancestheGoliath - is it possible that the BNL are actually producing music that they want and enjoy - vs. a calculated business decision (ie taking advantage of the masses)? Seems like a lot of haters are out b/c people don’t find them funny.

Some would say (and I have seen it written on this site) that Phish are “taking advantage of the masses” by releasing shows that have widely circulated SBDs.

My original point was that slaging off on a pop band on a jamband site is like shooting phish in a barrel. It’s pretty safe. But this review shows the same bias that annoys jam fans when we see stuff that describes us as smelly, drugged out hippies.

schofizzl Tue 1/29/2008 11:39PM
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schofizzl

well put, yo. it's not like somebody walked up to BNL with a bag of cash and said "hey wanna be famous?" BNL's first album was probably their "jokeyest" and that album was not made to be a hit. besides that it doesn't even have that much humor schtickk in it. the slower songs are the ones that stick out most, imo.

mothersonlyson Wed 1/30/2008 09:04AM
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I found it odd that a BNL release would be reviewed by JamBase, as the two do not mix IMO. Obviously the reviewer has a bias against BNL and I wonder why. I have seen BNL 7 times and they have delivered each time what I expect, FUN! No, it isn't the acid induced glow-stick-trailer fun of a fest, or even the mellow of a 'Dead show, but BNL have fun onstage and it shows, and even comes across in their live music. People either "get" BNL or they don't.

supertramp2 starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/30/2008 06:20PM
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This review is spot on. "Too eager to please" sums up BNL perfectly....Chickadee-china the chinese chicken? WTF?!? Great review.

schofizzl Wed 1/30/2008 10:53PM
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schofizzl

i'm glad people can bash a band when they only know one of their songs, which is one of their worst songs...

the bnl play a lot of different types of music..

it's not their fault that people wanted to play them in the late 90s...

learn before you bash.

DaveT star Mon 2/4/2008 02:38PM
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DaveT

Schofizzl, you related to someone in the band? Kinda passionate to revisit this article so often to defend... I am indifferent to BNL. From someone on the outside looking in, they seem to have their heads and hearts in the right place. Like 'em or hate 'em, it doesn't matter to you, me, or them. Who cares. Listen, or don't.