- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003

Barenaked Ladies

Everything to Everyone

Reprise Records

Canada’s Barenaked Ladies cut its musical teeth with cheery melodies infected with pop-culture references. Just ask Brian Wilson.

The pop pranksters’ new “Everything to Everyone” brims with more referential wordplay, but sandwiched between the quirky verbiage lurks a bid for artistic growth.

The album features, for the first time, writing contributions from all five BNL members, including a rejuvenated Kevin Hearn. The keyboardist has fully recovered from a bout with leukemia first diagnosed in 1998, the same year “One Week” catapulted the band to pop-star status.

For every harmless souffle on “Everything,” such as “Shopping,” there is a thoughtful “Have You Seen My Love.” Growing pains rarely sound so engaging. “Celebrity” finds the quintet looking long and hard in the mirror, a spare piano anchoring the navel-gazing.

Just try to find a more instantly addictive track released this year than “Maybe Katie.” Angry guitars drive home a wry defense of a vulnerable single gal. “Just because her youth is fading doesn’t mean she’s not worth dating,” goes the chorus.

Steven Page’s lead vocals still outstrip fellow singer Ed Robertson’s reedy pipes; the latter is given too much time upfront.

The first single, “Another Postcard,” revisits the quasi-rap mode exploited in the band’s breakout hit, “One Week.” The aforementioned “Shopping” will please fans weaned on BNL’s silly side. Here, it’s more of a step backward. “Upside Down” carries on the bombastic theme from “Maroon’s” “Sell, Sell Sell” while “War on Drugs” tackles a suicide’s fallout with surprising tenderness.

“Aluminum,” more than any other track, points to a future in which BNL can satisfy both hard-core and casual fans alike. Its childlike chorus, “Aluminum to me, alu-min-eum to some” belies the song’s gorgeous melodies.

The days of poking fun at bloated rock icons may be over, but Barenaked Ladies soon won’t need to drop any name but its own.

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