Maroon, by Barenaked Ladies
Maroon, the fifth full-length studio album by Canadian pop-rockers Barenaked Ladies, found the band in a strange position. The success of 1998’s Stunt and the cancer crisis that had afflicted keyboardist Kevin Hearn led the band to adopt a more serious attitude, and this album has a great deal of melancholy. If there is humor in this album, it is more the sort of dark humour that is found from a grimly sardonic view of life, and there are a lot of paradoxes and reversals and general wallowing in serious and unpleasant and awkward matters here. This album is by no means bad, and is in fact pretty good, even if the band is a bit front-loaded in terms of the best material to be found. You have to be the in the right mood for this album, namely a somewhat reflected and anxious mood, but in the early 2000’s that was not a bad or an uncommon mood to be in, and the material of the album did resonate with its intended audiences. “Pinch Me,” the first single of the album, hit the top 20, and second and third singles “Falling For The First Time” and “Too Little Too Late” nearly hit the Hot AC Top 10, and the album itself went platinum, showing the band’s success and momentum had continued, at least up to the greatest hits album that would be released the next year that marks the end of the band’s commercial peak.
The material of this album is pretty straightforward, beginning with the strongest materials over the first half. Opening with the pensive “Too Little Too Late,” the mood of uncertainty is continued by “Never Do Anything.” Ed Robertson takes the lead for the third song, first single “Pinch Me,” which shows a frustrated longing to get out of a rut and start over but a refusal to work that hard, as well as fifth song “Falling For The First Time,” which also has a somewhat downbeat lyricism that is only partially masked by the upbeat music. “Go Home” is a sad track told to someone who is about to ruin a great relationship by his insecurity, but is a powerful one nonetheless. And then “Conventioners” gives a melancholy tale of an affair between coworkers that quickly leads to sourness and awkwardness, while “Sell, Sell Sell” gives a mock heroic look at someone who could have made it big if he had the chance. Much of the rest of the album is decent album filler with last track “Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel” a standout about a man dying from boredom and exhaustion, and then “Hidden Sun,” the only track co-written by keyboardist Kevin Hearn.
It is rather telling and unfortunate, but as the last successful commercial album of the group in the United States, the generally downbeat mood of the album is somewhat of a prophecy for the band losing its popularity as it grew up and could no longer feel as happy-go-lucky as they did before. Steven Page takes the majority of the singing duties here, and a few years later he would leave the band and plunge BNL into a crisis about whether they could continue on as a viable act without one of their core founders and singer-songwriters. In the end, both Page and the band would be better for it, but that fate seems to be anticipated here, as it is clear that the band was just not having a lot of fun in the making of this album, which appears to have been a bit of a chore. Adulthood did not wear well on the Barenaked Ladies, and from here on out the group would experience a steep commercial decline in the United States.