ALBUM REVIEW: Barenaked Ladies are a real ‘Detour de Force’

Barenaked Ladies, Detour de Force, BNL

“And after three decades it’s still a good hang,” the Barenaked Ladies rap-sing on the bridge of “Good Life,” the second track off their 16th album, Detour de Force. It comes 33 years after their first release. Known for their lighthearted, sometimes improvised lyrics and eclectic, evolving sound, the group manages to retain this distinct style on the newest album while staying just serious enough and relevant to the times.

Detour De Force
Barenaked Ladies
Raisin’ Records, July 16
7/10

If you haven’t heard their music in the three decades they’ve been around, listen to the theme song of “The Big Bang Theory” and you’ll understand the group’s style quickly enough.

Despite the four years between their last album and the newest, the group has been busy with several projects including re-recording songs from their previous effort for an acoustic EP in 2019, writing and recording the newest album and then ultimately, performing weekly “Selfie Cam Jam” from home during the pandemic.



There’s a blend of genres, from generic rock to country and pop. There are distinctly country and rock styles of singing and even bits of freestyle rapping on tracks like on the aforementioned “Good Life.” It’s a sonically generic rock track that recalls good memories of relationships and moments in the spotlight. It’s the album’s second song and stacked between two more of the project’s more lyrically and sonically similar pieces. On single “Flip,” they find fault in the commercialization of, well, everything, singing “Everything is sellable /Whether you’re an animal or vegetable or mineral/ It’s criminal to think/ It drives a man to drink.”

On “New Disaster” they allude to struggling to combat governments that lie and lead their people away from the truth. One can’t help feeling like there’s an overarching focus on climate change and the internationally influential and interconnected politics of 2020. They seamlessly work in complex words like “prestidigitation,” magic performed as entertainment, and further mention the capitalist influence of modern-day life, singing, “Save the forest, save the whales, throw the CEO in jail.”

Produced in just five weeks pre-pandemic, Detour de Force was inspired by Barenaked Ladies’ acoustic remaking 2017’s Fake Nudes. Tucking themselves away in a similar setting, the solitude of a lakeside cottage of founder and now lead singer Ed Robertson, they prepared in the basement and recorded in makeshift living spaces around the house. But before finishing, the pandemic hit, halting the album’s finishing touches and release, ultimately giving them more time to fine-tune the tracks, hence the title Detour de Force.



“Here Together” is an easier, summery song and during the bridge, a synth layered lightly through the back of the track fills in the corners neatly. On “Big Back Yard,” an anthemic chorus and lighthearted lyrics describe the intimacy and security of having a private space to cultivate the life you’ve dreamed of. Wishing for things like “a vegetable garden and a garden gnome,” “18 chickens and a Saint Bernard,” or just a space to play cards with a partner’s mom, it displays the band’s skill with lighthearted, yet effective lyricism.

During the second half of the 14-track album, the songs begin to take a slower turn, becoming more melodic and easygoing. On “Paul Chambers,” Barenaked Ladies pay tribute to the 1950s and ’60s jazz star known for his improvisations and solos, and undoubtedly an inspiration for the band. “The National Park” is led with an acoustic guitar and tells of the expansive beauty of preserved lands. When Robertson and co. return home, they return to taking “a shot of bourbon and urban decay,” thinking only of the beauty and darkness of where they just traveled.



For the final track, “Internal Dynamo,” Barenaked Ladies display perhaps their most sonically interesting work on Detour de Force as they pick the pace back up. Opening with a light ambient noise that distorts and slowly builds for more than a minute, a very modern and synthesized beat is then introduced. Before long the band has reached full rocker status yelling, “Dynamo, dynamo/ Knocking me down like dominoes.” The track takes several turns in its five minutes, characterizing the band’s ability to cross genres and styles succinctly.

Follow Domenic Strazzabosco at Twitter.com/domenicstrazz and Instagram.com/domenicstrazz.