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Jam Central Station: Classic Album Review – Barenaked Ladies – Gordon

July 22, 2017 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski

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There are some albums that I loved immediately after hearing them. Albums that grabbed me and never let go. Gordon by the Barenaked Ladies was not at all one of those albums. I was expecting, well honestly I don’t know what I was expecting. But not an album with jazz, pop, blues, rock, and a healthy dose of both Canadian humor and melancholy. This CD spent a long time sitting in a pile of stuff that I didn’t listen to until I busted it out one night when I was in an “experimental” mood. I finally started to understand what the band was doing with the album, and I was able to see the talent behind the music. The band has grown and changed significantly in the 20 years since this album came out, but Gordon still holds up as a great listen.

Despite the comedic elements, the album has quite a bit to say. “Hello City” starts the album out with a commentary on urban living at the time. The jazzy song surprisingly absolutely rips into city life at the time. The next few songs go into the past, with the bright and upbeat “Enid” reviewing the perils of middle-school romance, while “Grade 9” is a frantic song about the fear of starting high school. These two songs take (and I’m sure many others) back to their awkward teenage years, trying to navigate a life that suddenly has some very different rules than it did just a few years earlier. “Brian Wilson” brings things back to the present and is written in the same vein as “Hello City.” “Be My Yoko Ono” is one of the band’s best known songs, and another song about a relationship gone wrong. All of the early songs on this album use humor and cultural references to make a point about where they are in their life and where they’ve been. While I’m not sure that any of these songs are strictly autobiographical, the early portion of the album shows the band’s ability to connect with the listener. Everyone can relate to these songs in some way, as growing up and learning to navigate relationships, friendships, and life are universal themes. Musically, the band goes through jazz, blues, and their own unique pop/rock sound early in the album.

The album finally takes a serious turn with “Wrap Your Arms Around Me.” This song doesn’t make it clear if this is a lament for a failed relationship or a song about the strength of a current love, but the ambiguity works very well. This is followed by another quiet song with “What A Good Boy.” This is another song showing how the band can move very far from their comedic roots. The band moves back to upbeat and humorous themes for the next four tracks, however. “The King of Bedside Manor” revels in its absurdity, and “Box Set” tells the story of a washed up rock star from the rock star’s point of view. The band brings back some jazz with the simple (and somewhat egotistical) “I Love You,” and brings back some early 90’s cultural references with “New Kid.”

The closing four songs on the album is probably the strongest run. “Blame It On Me” is clever, silly, and full of love all at the same time. It’s another song where the band shows how they were able to bring in light jazz influences into a rock album. “The Flag” is a beautifully done song about a dysfunctional relationship, and probably my favorite song on the album. It’s raw and emotional, and showcases both the best of the band’s writing ability and vocal harmonies. “If I Had $1,000,000” is on the opposite end of the spectrum, an absurd sing along that basically everyone knows. What people forget is how smart the song often is, with clever references throughout. “Crazy” closes the album, another song relying on vocal harmonies. It’s not a great closer, but it’s a good song to come down with after the witty and somewhat absurd “If I Had $1,000,000.”

I’ll be honest that I didn’t know what I would think of this album when I decided to give it a review. I probably hadn’t listened to it straight through in at least 5 years, although I still basically knew it note for note. Barenaked Ladies don’t get the credit they deserve as musicians, and folks tend to focus on their sense of humor. On Gordon, however, both are present. I can’t say that I like this album as much as I did when I first truly sat down with it nearly 20 years ago, but I was glad for a chance to revisit it. If you haven’t ever really given it a listen, go find it on Spotify or iTunes and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s well done, a lot of fun, and it still holds up pretty well.

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moe. Announce hiatus
moe. announced that they will be going on an indefinite hiatus beginning August 1. This unexpected hiatus is due to bassist Rob Derhark being diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer. The good news is that the cancer is considered very treatable. All the best to Rob, his family, and the band during this time.

Dave Matthews and TIm Reynolds to return to Mexico
Dave Matthews and TIm Reynolds will return to Riviera Maya for a destination event. The duo will perform 3 shows from January 12-14, 2018. Other artists are expected to be added to the event.

STS9 announce tour
STS9 announced dates through early October. The run includes a handful of festival slots as well as headlining gigs.

August 4 George, WA—The Gorge
August 17-23 Praire, OR—Oregon Eclipse
September 2 Chicago, IL—North Coast
September 8 Morrison, CO—Red Rocks
September 9 Morrison, CO—Red Rocks
September 10 Morrison, CO—Red Rocks
September 21 Washington, DC—Echo Stage
September 21-23 Thornville, OH—Resonance Festival
September 23 Raleigh, NC—The Ritz
September 22-24 Atlanta, GA—Imagine Music Festival
September 27 Portland, ME—The State Theatre
September 28 Worcester, MA—Palladium
September 29 Port Chester, NY—Capitol Theatre
September 30 Philadelphia, PA—Fillmore
October 1 Norfolk, VA—Norva
October 3 Knoxville, TN—Mill and Mine
October 4 Knoxville, TN—Mill and Mine
October 7 St. Augustine, FL—St. Augustine Amphitheat

jcsevents

Deep Roots Mountain Revival
July 20-22
Marvins Mountaintop
Masontown, WV
Brandi Carlile, Lettuce, Yonder Mountain String Band, Dr. Dog, The Motet, JJ Grey & Mofro, Moon Taxi, White Denim, TAUK

Floydfest 17: Freedom
July 26-30
Floyd, VA
Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & Broken Bones, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Shovels & Rope, Turkuaz, TUAK, Fruition

Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival
August 11-13
Alta, WY
The Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush Band, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury Band, The Travelin’ McCoury’s

Hoxeyville
August 18-20
Wellston, MI
Greensky Bluegrass, Sam Bush Band, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Fruition, Joshua Davis, Larry Keel Experience, Billy Strings, The Accidentals, The Crane Wives

Lockn’
August 24-27
Arrington, VA
The Avett Brothers, Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, moe, Greensky Bluegrass, John Butler Trio, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, TAUK

Grand Point North
September 16-17
Waterfront Park
Burlington, VT
Trey Anastasio Band, Grace Potter, Dawes, Joseph, Son Little, Hurray for the Riff Raff

The Festy Experience
October 5-8
Infinity Downs
Arrington, VA
The Infamous Stringdusters, Ani DiFranco, Drive By Truckers, Elephant Revival, Sam Bush Band, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, Jerry Douglas, Cabinet, Billy Strings, Beats Antique

Hillberry Music Festival
October 12-15
Eureka Springs, AR
Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Dumpstaphunk, Dirtfoot

Suwannee Roots Revival
October 12-15
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, The Wood Brothers, Peter Rowan Dharma Blues featuring Jack Cassidy, Donna the Buffalo, Steep Canyon Rangers

Hangtown Music Festival
October 26-29
Placerville, CA
Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Dark Star Orchestra, Leftover Salmon, Turkuaz

Suwannee Hulaween
October 27-29
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
The String Cheese Incident, Ween, Bassnectar, The Disco Biscuits, Portugal The Man, Lettuce, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Benevento/Russo Duo, Greensky Bluegrass, Kamasi Washington, TAUK, Dumpstafunk, Spafford

Dominican Holidaze
December 1-5
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Umphrey’s McGee, STS9, The Disco Biscuits, GRiZ, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, TAUK, The Motet, Lotus, Spafford

Strings & Sol
December 8-12
Now Sapphire
Puerto Morelos, MX
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Infamous Stringdusters, Fruition

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds in Mexico
January 12-14
Riviera Maya, MX

Gov’t Mule’s Island Exodus
January 13-17
Jewel Paradise Cove
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes, JJ Grey & Mofro

Jam in the Sand
January 18-22
Jewel Paradise Cove
Ruanaway Bay, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra, Hot Tuna, Rumpke Mountain Boys

Jam Cruise
January 17-22
Medeski, Martin, Scofield & Wood, Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Maceo Parker, Lotus, Lettuce, Gramatik, Keller Williams, The New Mastersounds, Dumpstaphunk, Turkuaz, The Main Squeeze

Panic En La Playa
January 26-30
Riviera Maya, Mexico

Bonnaroo
June 7-10
Manchester, TN

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Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!