“Jane” introduced the serious side of Barenaked Ladies

“Jane” introduced the serious side of Barenaked Ladies

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we’re picking our favorite less-popular songs from 1994.

The thing about a wall of CDs or a shelf full of vinyl is that it fixes the collector’s taste in amber; digital formats have made preferences much more fluid, the ease of deleting a track (or album, or entire discography) from an iPod far easier than unloading a crate of albums at a record shop. So while I only carry two Barenaked Ladies albums—1994’s Maybe You Should Drive and 2000’s Maroon—on my current iPod, the jewel cases of every disc the band put out between 1992 and 2004 will never let me forget there was a time when Barenaked Ladies were my favorite band in the world.

That’s a difficult choice to defend, but here are the rejoinders: High school, high-school band, high-school theater, and Maybe You Should Drive, the slight-detour sophomore effort that downplays the mugging-in-short-pants image established by the doofier passages of the band’s debut LP, Gordon. Barenaked Ladies will always be defined by that album’s end-of-setlist sing-along, “If I Had $1000000,” but the band deserves to be equally characterized by songs like “Jane,” the lovely ode to unrequited crushes and platonic cohabitation that opens Maybe You Should Drive. It’s the more “mature” album (even if its opening track and lead single comes from a very early 20s POV), with fewer jokes and more tracks likely to entertain listeners outside of the alto saxophone section of the Brighton High School Marching 200.

In the immediate wake of Maybe You Should Drive, the band criticized the big-budget indulgences of the record’s producer, longtime K.D. Lang collaborator Ben Mink, but “Jane” exemplifies where Mink’s mindset was spot on. The song’s lushness channels Barenaked Ladies’ manic energy as well as any smart-aleck Yoko Ono allusion: There are few moments in the band’s catalogue as straight-up enchanting as the call-and-response between “Jane”’s guitars and hammer dulcimer. The song might not represent who the Barenaked Ladies were upon Maybe You Should Drive’s release (though the Juliana Hatfield-Evan Dando allusion gives it a “born on” date), or even who they were when they were my favorite band. The curatorial pleasures of the Internet age, however, allow this listener to pave over the memory of “One Week” with “Jane” and the 11 songs that follow it.


More Hear This