Song of the Day #353: ‘Bull in a China Shop’ – Barenaked Ladies

aremeIt’s a shame when a great band goes out not with a bang but a whimper. Some, including the band itself, would argue that they have many albums left to give, but I consider 2006’s Barenaked Ladies Are Me their final proper release because (cue ‘Taps’) Steven Page subsequently left the band.

That’s like Paul McCartney leaving The Beatles, or Adam Schlesinger leaving Fountains of Wayne (different ends of the spectrum there in terms of impact, sure, but the same thing creatively speaking). Page is the co-writer of almost every Barenaked Ladies song and the lead singer of most of them. How does a band lose somebody like that and continue to be the same band? It doesn’t. Perhaps they’ll continue to make great music on the back of Ed Robertson, who wrote all of those great songs with Page, but it won’t be the Barenaked Ladies I’ve loved over the years.

I hate when bands break up, or when founding members leave (I’m looking at you, Bill Berry!). How can somebody turn his back on dedicated fans, causing grief to thousands upon thousands of people? It’s easy to forget that these are human beings with their own thoughts, feelings and problems who might need to just do something new for their own sanity. Indeed, Steven Page’s departure followed an arrest for cocaine possession, suggesting he probably needed some time to fix things in his own life.

So, Barenaked Ladies Are Me is the core group’s final album and as I hinted above it’s a bit of a letdown. Smart, funny and catchy, sure, as are all of their albums, but probably the least of them. No new ground broken, no standout songs that rank among their very best. Just a lot of good songs by a band that has always had a talent for making great ones.

Well, I take that back. ‘Bull in a China Shop’ is a great song. Enjoy it.

[Hold the phone. After I'd planned out this theme week I found out that the band quietly released a companion album to this one, titled Barenaked Ladies Are Men and recorded at the same time. So I need to seek that baby out. I'll let you know it goes.]

I’m a kid in a candy store
I’m a bull in a china shop
I’m a tired old metaphor
For everything you can’t afford
And everything you can’t afford to be

I’m a public embarrassment
I’m a bottle of diet poison
I’m a walking advertisement
For everything I never meant
And everything I never meant to be

I can’t hear a thing
Cause I’ve stopped listening

I’m the reason I don’t go out
I’m afraid I might sell me something
I’m the shadow of every doubt
I’m the product this song’s about
I’m the product this song’s about to be

I can’t hear a thing
Cause I’ve stopped listening
I can’t hear a thing
Cause I’ve stopped listening

Every morning
Since I was born
It’s been hard to look in the mirror
And see my face for the horns

All the fun that the law allows
All the fun but with half the meaning
Come on over, I’ll show you how
If you lived here you’d be home by now
If you still lived here you’d be home now with me

I can’t hear a thing
Cause I’ve stopped listening
I can’t hear a thing
Cause I’ve stopped listening

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3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #353: ‘Bull in a China Shop’ – Barenaked Ladies

  1. Amy says:

    Maybe he left in part because he was feeling the same frustration making this album that you feel listening to it. Maybe he felt he could make better music in some other way? When Peter Gabriel left Genesis, he made So! What is Steve Page’s solo music like? Has he released much? Have you heard it?

  2. Dana says:

    Good point Amy makes on Peter Gabriel. Eric Clapton is another example of someone who, arguably, did great or greater work solo than with his band(s). Ben Folds has done just fine with out the Five as well.

    I think the truth is that, for the most part, the idea of cowriting songs is a bit of a fallacy. As Lennon and McCartney have candidly admitted, with some rare exceptions, they really each wrote their own stuff, but, for publishing purposes, showed each other on each song. If Paige is the real songwriting force behind BNL, then he should do just fine on his own. If, on the other hand, Ed is the true talent, then BNL will be the stronger force. Now, if they really are both equally strong at songwriting, then you may truly have an example of Lennon McCartney (though I still maintain Lennon was the stronger of the two in writing)

  3. Clay says:

    As far as I know, Page hasn’t yet released any solo material. The split happened at the end of last year so neither he nor what’s left of the band have released anything post-breakup. I’m very curious to hear both, though more so to hear what Page comes up with.

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