BARENAKED LADIES Fake Nudes gets 4/10

Barenaked Ladies
Fake Nudes
Vanguard

4/10

Barenaked Ladies are a band that admittedly I’ve mostly ignored, for reasons which I wasn’t sure of until I listened to their 15th album, released in November.

Fake Nudes has been placed under the umbrella of ‘alternative rock’, and from the get-go I was sceptical of this. The songs on this record have an overarching generic rock sound, with familiar-sounding riffs and many lyrical cliches, leading me to wonder how this diverges from the mainstream. Vocalist Ed Robertson has a country twang to his voice which I didn’t pick up on in older tracks like One Week and Blame It On Me.

Bringing It Home (an ode to life on the road) and Lookin’ Up (which sounds like an annoying bank advert) are simply unexciting songs. I couldn’t help but chuckle listening to Dusty Rooms, it’s clearly an intentionally depressing song, but with classic lines like “I found an old wedge of lime in a dirty dusty room” and “On the TV, hey it’s Mr T!” I just lost my composure.

Sunshine felt like a Christian pop song that I could fall asleep listening to, and Navigate thankfully avoided the boring guitar but lost me with its cutesy camping theme. Bag of Bones’ pleasing harmonies and 60s vibes impressed me, but I found the “Big dogs, biting dogs, barking dogs” chant a bit irritating and the metaphor hard to follow.

On the other side of the coin, Fake Nudes does have some redeeming features which I’m glad I waited until the end for. Flying Dreams is a sweet tune about a lover’s dream reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel. It steers clear of the bland first half of the album, and precedes other strong tracks including The Township of King, a folky, Fleet Foxes-like take on the downsides of industrialisation. There were also some interesting uses of synth, particularly in Nobody Better and You + Me Vs The World, but frankly that was the only part of said tracks I could get behind.

These 14 tracks were a struggle to get through bar a couple. Fake Nudes is predominantly a welcome addition to their repertoire for prior fans, based on reception I’ve come across. I felt as though hardly any of it was personal or unique. Thankfully for them, the overall catchiness of this offering will work to their advantage and I must also applaud the theme of positivity which flows throughout the album as it’s certainly what some listeners need in these uncertain times – but at the expense of anything particularly original it all falls flat.

ELOISE PARKS

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