CD Review of Snacktime! by Barenaked Ladies
Recommended if you like
They Might Be Giants, Cake,
Ben Folds
Label
Nettwerk/Desperation
Barenaked Ladies: Snacktime!

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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O
nce the exclusive domain of songwriters with a gift for horrible, cutesy-poo pandering, children’s music has enjoyed a creative renaissance during the last few years, with kid-friendly albums from artists such as Dan Zanes and They Might Be Giants rescuing grateful parents from Raffi and Barney hell. Given that the Barenaked Ladies have never been afraid to use goofy and/or childish humor in their music, the idea of a BNL kids’ record is so obviously perfect that someone in the band’s management camp should probably be fired for not making it happen sooner; if Snacktime! had been released five years ago, it might have gone platinum, rather than just being the latest entry in an ever-more-crowded field.

Lost commercial opportunities aside, this album is, for the most part, every bit as entertaining as you’d expect; the band’s musical sensibilities are a natural fit for a set of songs (24 in all) concerning themselves with things like ninjas, the flying patterns of geese, allergies, and the number seven eating the number nine (that last one is tackled in a song titled, naturally, “7 8 9”). The arrangements run the gamut from uptempo rock numbers to gentle ballads, with room for a touch of reggae (the irresistibly infectious “Pollywog in a Bog”) in between. If you’ve listened to recent Barenaked Ladies albums and pined for the days of lighthearted fare like “Be My Yoko Ono” and “If I Had $1,000,000,” then you’ll be pleased to discover that the band hasn’t lost its penchant for clever silliness.

Barenaked Ladies

Actually, Snacktime! might be a little too clever, at least for adult listeners – which is a shame, since a lot of the album’s smartest one-liners will be lost on the crowd they’re aimed at (case in point: the couplet “The Parthenon’s in Greece / Or was it in ‘Grease 2’?,” which sparks eyerolls in nine out of 10 grownups). We wouldn’t expect anything less from Barenaked Ladies, though, and really, just about every track has at least one funny line – with the possible exception of the brief-but-lovely “Things,” which lasts only long enough to say “There are things that make me mad / You are not one of them / There are things that make me sad / But you are not one of them / There are things that make me Dad / You seem to be all of them.”

The piece de resistance, at least in terms of silly humor, is “Crazy ABCs,” a laundry list of phonetic oddities that should have your toddler furrowing his brow before the Ladies get to “G is for gnarly / H is for hour.” Also not to be missed is the title track, containing voicemail messages detailing the favorite snacks of BNL friends, including Geddy Lee, Lyle Lovett, Sarah McLachlan, Gordon Downie, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Janeane Garofalo, Gordon Lightfoot, and – of course – Jason Priestley. But it isn’t all about fun and games – the album takes time out to talk about what a “Bad Day” feels like, and the closing track, “Here Come the Geese,” is one of the loveliest things the band has ever put to tape.

In the end, Snacktime! is probably too eclectic to be a start-to-finish winner for most listeners (this writer’s personal sore thumb is “The Ninjas”), but it’ll almost certainly delight the kids in your life, and that’s the most important thing. Well, that and keeping them away from those Barney and Raffi albums.

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