Marramgrass

Tuesday Tunes: Shoe Box

The collision of music and humour often leaves a mess. At the extremes you have the musical comedians (Mitch Benn and Bill Bailey being fine examples) and the serious artistes (oh, pretty much everyone who's a little too earnest for their own good). In the middle it can be tough to find anyone to properly recommend.

Enter Barenaked Ladies, the Canadian alt-rockers contending for Most Misleading Band Name Ever. Somehow they manage to take stonking, if occasionally obscure, musicianship and meet it with brilliant, surreal, Canadian funniness.

Which is not to say they're a comedy act; they're not. Instead, the lyrics and the manner have a slyness to them that can be light-hearted or poignant, but always funny — if smirking or eyebrow-raising rather than always belly-laughing.

My introduction to Barenaked Ladies came with the tune “Shoe Box” when it was picked up for the Friends soundtrack album, although I quickly sought it out in its proper home, 1996's Born On A Pirate Ship. Energetic, it manages their usual trick of being playful and thoughtful at the same time.

From my first little fib when I still wore a bib,
To my latest attempt at pretending I'm someone
Who's not seventeen, or doesn't know what you mean
When talk turns to single malts or stilton.

(I couldn't find streaming links for this one, which is a shame. You can hear a snippet through iTunes if you have it installed.)