Continuing my look at 1994, first by counting down my own top ten albums of that year.
#9 – Maybe You Should Drive – Barenaked Ladies
This was the second album by one of my favorite 90s alternative rock bands. It’s a bit dismissive to call BNL a 90s act, I suppose, given that they have consistently recorded in the two decades since, but with very few exceptions, everything I like by the band came out on their first five albums.
It’s hard to go wrong when a Barenaked Ladies song pops up on Random Weekends.
No matter the album, their songs are interesting thematically and musically, and almost always enjoyable listening (I’ll make an exception for the handful of lame-ass songs written by bassist Jim Creeggan).
I’ve been on the giving end of a whole lot of mixtapes but I’ve also received a few over the years. Most have been from an old high school friend with whom I’ve stayed in touch over the past two decades (even without the easy access of Facebook).
It’s funny, I think our correspondence has diminished over the years as technology made staying in touch easier. Back before email we would write actual letters, written out by hand, and exchange mixtapes to introduce each other to new music. That gave way to a pretty steady e-mail correspondence and frequent music recommendations, but not as many mixtapes.
While Gordon contained primarily light and funny songs, the Ladies’ second album, Maybe You Should Drive, veered toward more serious subject matter — one subject in particular: romantic relationships.
The opening track is one of my favorite BNL songs, ‘Jane,’ which I already featured on the blog. Another favorite is ‘Life, in a Nutshell,’ as catchy a pop tune as you’ll ever hear (though you won’t hear it here today). ‘The Wrong Man Was Convicted’ suggests a pedantic protest song but turns out to be about a man who can’t commit to a relationship.
I saw Ben Folds on a TV special the other day and he talked about a lesson he learned from Vincent Price. Price said that you can’t have a truly scary horror movie unless it’s also a little bit funny. It’s the contrast that sells you on the fear.
Folds said he uses the same principle in his music, leavening the sad, serious stuff with the ridiculous and ironic. And, in addition to Folds, the group that jumps to mind when I think about that theory is Barenaked Ladies.