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Barenaked Ladies Are Men (Netwerk Music Group)
Barenaked Ladies

By Kory Wilcoxson

The last Barenaked Ladies album, Barenaked Ladies Are Me, was full of what you've come to expect from the Canadian group: witty, non-threatening adult pop that will make you smile, but not necessarily sit up and take notice.

That could change with Barenaked Ladies Are Men, the yin to the previous album's yang. It's billed as the extra songs recorded during the Are Me sessions, but much of the material on the newest album blows away not only the last CD, but three of their last four.

The album starts deceptively with the nostalgic "Serendipity," a mixture of Beach Boys harmonies and Fountains of Wayne clever pop. But with the next song, "Something You'll Never Find," BNL kicks into a gear we haven't heard from them since "Born on a Pirate Ship," their 1997 release.

A good example is "Angry People," the happiest song in the world about the contaminating effect of the sourpusses around us. It shows BNL's deftness at writing catchy pop songs about decidedly non-pop-song subjects (their biggest hit, "One Week," is about a conflictual relationship, mixed in with a rap about things like Sting's sexual stylings). We should expect such smirky discrepancies from a group of middle-aged guys with a titillating name.

What stands out about Are Men is the fun the band seems to be having as they let loose and rock out. "Down to Earth" and "Running Out of Ink" show the band at their breezy best, while "Fun and Games" is a hiliarous spot-on commentary on the Iraq war. Are Men perfectly captures all that is good about BNL and serves as a great microcosm of their long and varied career.

Get Barenaked at www.bnlmusic.com.