Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before

Barenaked Ladies

Rhino, 2012

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


I don’t know who assembled this compilation, Barenaked Ladies’ first rarities album, but they sure did a poor job. Some bands will use an album like this to compile obscure live material. Others will fill their archive releases with demos and outtakes, or they’ll compile the best of their B-sides. Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before tries to be all of these things at once and as a result becomes a huge mess. Remixes, B-sides, demos, and live material all sit awkwardly next to each other. There is no effort to be comprehensive; many of the selections in each category are chosen seemingly at random.

So let’s go through each category in turn. First off: the demos. From a historical point of view, “The Old Apartment” is the most interesting, since it began life as a ballad before being transformed into a balls-to-the-wall rocker. Unfortunately, when listening to the song as it was originally conceived, I can only be convinced that the band made the right call, since it’s deathly boring in this form. “Second Best” is a good song, and its demo makes for a nice listen. But is there anything about it that might make it a viable alternative to the studio version on Everything To Everyone? No, not really. It pretty much sounds the same but just a tad bit worse in every department. “Long While” has a nice tune and bobs along cheerfully. It doesn’t seem to be available in any other form, so unlike the other demos it is neither boring nor useless and therefore easily the best track in this category.

Now we move on to the live tracks. First off, there’s a cover of the Beastie Boys classic “Shake Your Rump.” Of all the covers that could have been picked, why did they choose this one? I can’t imagine anybody seriously preferring this cover to the original. It’s just a novelty; fun to hear once, and completely unnecessary to hear again. It’s not even performed all that well. There’s an early live version of “Same Thing” which has a few different lyrics than the completed version. Like with “Second Best,” it’s not as good the studio version, so what’s the point? “Teenage Wasteland” is kind of a curious song. It’s highly energetic and the lyrics are quite entertaining. But the memorability level of the track is non-existent. It moves through several different sections and not a single one catches my ear in any way. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Next there’s the outtake/B-sides category. All of these songs were completed studio recordings that didn’t make it onto an album at the time. But three of them were completely re-recorded a couple years later, so you’ve probably already heard "Adrift," "Half A Heart," and "I Can, I Will, I Do". And once again, there’s nothing about these versions that make them stand out when compared to the versions you already know. As for the songs people haven’t heard before, only “Yes Yes Yes” is good. It rocks, has some lovely vocal harmonies and some pretty solid hooks. “I Don’t Get It Anymore,” on the other hand, is straight-up awful. One of the most boring, bland songs BNL has ever done. The chorus is repetitive, the bridge seems like a placeholder, the instrumental sections seem like they’re missing a lead instrument, and the whole arrangement is just plodding and lazy. And as if to add insult to injury, it’s positioned as the opening track on the album!

Last, and most certainly least, there’s a remix of “One Week.” Pretty much all this remix does is add a ridiculously stupid beat-box loop behind the regular song and repeat a few sections more than they were in the original. It’s not like the song itself is bad, but I can’t imagine something more pointless than this. Do they seriously think that this is the kind of thing fans were looking for in a rarities compilation? What a colossally useless waste of three minutes.

The only people who’d be interested in this album are hardcore fans. Yet there’s hardly anything here to interest those fans. What’s especially frustrating is that BNL has plenty of great non-album tracks that they could have put on here but didn’t. Where’s “Trust Me,” “The Ballad Of Gordon,” “Inline Bowline,” or any of the material from their early demo tapes? Nearly everything in the band’s vaults that would have made for a good rarities compilation is excluded. “Yes Yes Yes” and “Long While” are alright songs, and they save this album from being completely worthless, but even those hardly measure up to the highlights on BNL’s regular releases. A useless remix, redundant versions of songs you already know, and unheard songs that deserved to remain that way, all combine to make this album a staggering waste of time.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2012 Ken DiTomaso and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rhino, and is used for informational purposes only.