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‘Detour de Force,’ Barenaked Ladies’ 16th studio album, is only a few minutes old when Ed Robertson declares that “it’s a good life.”
Few would argue. And the group’s 14 new tracks show it’s only getting better.
Over the course of 33 years, the Toronto quartet has sold 15 million records worldwide and built up an arsenal of hits such as “If I Had $1,000,000,” “One Week,” “Pinch Me” and “The Big Bang Theory Theme.” Widely acknowledged as one of the best live acts on the planet, BNL has hosted a cruise (“Ships and Dips”), had its own ice cream flavor, won eight Juno Awards in Canada, and was inducted into the
Canadian Music Hall of Fame during 2018. As Ed Robertson, Jim Creeggan, Tyler Stewart and Kevin Hearn put it on ‘Detour de Force,’ “Wasn’t easy but it turned out alright/Wouldn’t trade it for another…You don’t wanna miss this mutha.”
“Flip” leads the album as the buoyant and sonically adventurous first single, which reflects the many flips and changes of the last year. Ed says the song “is about being open to other perspectives. We try to write songs that move us, that are big. I think this is a song that’s going to be a real energy moment in the live show.”
Following with standout tracks “New Disaster” and “Good Life,” ‘Detour de Force’ is BNL at its most ambitious, accomplished, intricate, intentional — and, in some ways, circumstantial. Its gestation was long and exacerbated (as so many things have been) by the global pandemic, and the scope of the resulting album is significantly different than what the group had in mind when it started.
The good news is that it’s BNL’s most broad-reaching and diverse work to date — perhaps, if you will, it’s kind of ‘The BEATLES’ (aka ‘The White Album’), fusing the distinct writing voices of Robertson, Hearn and Creeggan into a cohesive work from the uptempo fun of “Flat Earth,” the playful and countryflavored “Roll Out” to the gentle melodics of “Live Well,” “The National Park,” “God Forbid” and “Man Made Lake” to the sonic roller coaster of the album-closing “Internal Dynamo.”
“We’ve always liked that our band is very diverse in what we do,” Robertson says, “and on this record I really enjoyed the exploration. This record is a journey. Taking off one song would tip it in a way we didn’t feel was representative of the record we made. We wanted everything that’s here to be part of the record.”
Stewart adds that, “This is some of our strongest material in 30 years, easily. I think it stands up there with our best albums. It hangs with ‘Gordon,’ or it hangs with ‘Maroon.’ There’s a deep well of music we want to draw from, and this probably is the best example of all of that coming together, feeling like an entire album — different voices, same band.”