The Naked Truth: Barenaked Ladies Are Mostly Misunderstood

Barkenaked Ladies play the Sunset Cover Amphitheater on Friday, July 10.EXPAND
Barkenaked Ladies play the Sunset Cover Amphitheater on Friday, July 10.
David Leyes

Admittedly, Canada’s Barenaked Ladies aren’t in the best position to be taken seriously. For starters, there’s their handle, chosen when school chums and founding members Ed Robertson and Steven Page initially exchanged ideas for band names. And then there’s the signature songs on which they built their decidedly wacky reputation – “Be My Yoko Ono,” “If I Had $1,000,000,” “Brian Wilson,” and their salute to geeks and freaks everywhere — the theme song for the hit CBS sitcom “Big Bang Theory.”

Regardless, after more than 27 years, numerous critical kudos, all the hit albums and successful singles, and sales in the millions, Barenaked Ladies still struggle for respect. Indeed, as astute songwriters, their penchant for pop ought to thwart any temptation to label them as a novelty act. And yet, with a reputation for crafting catchy, quirky ditties, the band knows theirs is a misunderstood image that’s not easily overcome.

“Years ago, we felt like we had something to prove in that domain, but not so much any more,” Robertson said in a phone interview. “We prefer to let the material speak for itself. We’ve made our bed, and we’ll lie in it.”

Not surprisingly then, that slapstick approach is considerably less apparent on their excellent new album, Silverball. It’s replaced instead by an equally effusive radio-friendly sound that’s far more sincere and, on occasion, even sentimental.

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“Every time we put a record out, journalists want to term it ‘more mature sounding.’” Robertson says. “We have that great paradox. Sometimes we sing about really heavy, important things, but we do it in a happy, tongue-in-cheek manner, even when we’re dealing with topics like suicide or domestic violence or whatever. That’s one of the hallmarks of this band.”

Of course, Robertson is quick to agree that some of that disparity has to do with the handle itself. “When you name your group Barenaked Ladies, you’re going to get a certain amount of snickering,” he says. “But the band itself has always prided ourselves on great songs and serious musicianship and harmonies and all that kind of stuff, and we’ve always taken that part of it seriously. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword. There’s still a real sense of fun and mirth and mischief, but there’s also a real sense of craft and taking what we do very seriously and feeling grateful that we’ve been around this long and we still get to do it.”

The Last Summer on Earth Tour Starring Barenaked Ladies, 7 p.m. Friday, July 10 at Sunset Cove Amphitheater, 20405 Amphitheater Circle, Boca Raton. Tickets cost $40. Call 800-745-3000, or visit Ticketmaster.com

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