Barenaked Ladies – Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before Posted by Chad Nevett on 05.10.2012
The Barenaked Ladies dig into the vault for this compilation of demos, b-sides, unreleased tracks, and live performances. Is this a worthwhile release or something that should have stayed buried? Read 411’s review to find out!
Originally announced at the same time as the band’s second ‘best of’ compilation, Hits from Yesterday & the Day Before, Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before is the first rarities collection by the Barenaked Ladies. With a recording career stretching back to the early ‘90s, including early cassette recordings that garnered the band the attention that led to their career, there is a wealth of material to choose from. Maybe not on the level of some bands or musicians, but more than enough to fill a compilation like this, maybe even two. Early recordings not available for wide release, demos, b-sides, bonus tracks from EPs, and a habit of rerecording songs for later albums when they didn’t make the cut previously provide a wealth of material that is, unfortunately, only partially utilized in this compilation. When I say that the band could probably release a couple of volumes of rarities, what I meant was that this feels like the second release that comes after all of the best material has been used already.
Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before
1. "I Don't Get It Anymore" 5:05
2. "Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!" 2:45
3. "Half A Heart" 4:51
4. "Old Apartment" 1:48
5. "Shake Your Rump" 2:54
6. "Same Thing" 4:11
7. "One Week" (Pull's Break Remix) 3:24
8. "Teenage Wasteland" 4:08
9. "Long While" 3:50
10. "Second Best" 3:41
11. "I Can, I Will, I Do" 3:09
12. "Adrift" 3:30
One of the biggest complaints fans of the Barenaked Ladies had when Hits from Yesterday & the Day Before was released was that it seemed like an attempt by their old record company to cash in on the band since it went independent after 2003’s Everything to Everyone (hence the large overlap with the band’s first ‘best of’ compilation Disc One). Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before feels very much like a similar exercise with the compilation barely cracking 40 minutes and a quarter of it devoted to early recordings of songs that would later appear on Barenaked Ladies are Me and Barenaked Ladies are Men, the band’s first releases once going independent. Sort of a “See, we can make money off of those songs, too!” jab since Warner Music Group (owner of the Reprise Records, the label the band was signed to previously) owns these recordings.
If these first recordings of songs like “Adrift,” “Half a Heart,” and “I Can, I Will, I Do” were radically different from the versions eventually released, it would be one thing, but they’re not. Only the last of the three was reworked a little and stands out, and, even then, not by much. The same goes for “Second Best,” which showed up on Everything to Everyone barely changed. It’s interesting to hear that the band didn’t make many radical changes to these songs that missed the cut from one album and later found a home on another. But, it’s the sort of ‘interesting’ that you don’t expect to find on a compilation like this necessarily. At least, not until all of the material that fans who own all of the band’s albums haven’t already heard has been exhausted.
The demo of “Old Apartment” is the only demo/prior-to-studio-release recording included that warrants a listen. The stripped down, rushed through version has Steven Page singing in a vulnerable, sweet way with only an acoustic guitar to accompany him. Despite being the bare bones of the song, complete with some different phrasings, it’s also more intimate than the studio version. The live version of “Same Thing” from 1992 has a similar feel with a quicker pace to Ed Robertson’s vocal delivery and a different verse than what eventually appeared on 1996’s Born on a Pirate Ship. Unlike the “Old Apartment” demo, it isn’t unique enough to come off as anything other than a good live performance by the band. If you ignore that it was from four years before the song appeared on an album, you would probably assume it to be an outtake from the band’s first live album Rock Spectacle, left off because it wasn’t quite as polished.
There are two live gems included here: the never recorded “Teenage Wasteland,” taken from a 1993 performance at Massey Hall in Toronto, and a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Shake Your Rump” from 1994. The cover shows off the playful side of the band’s live performances that hasn’t been captured on previous live releases where they stuck to the band’s own material, eschewing covers. “Teenage Wasteland” begins with some amusing banter from Robertson and Page before delivering a poppy love (or, obsession?) song that suffers a little from its bootleg recording and the guitars overpowering the vocals. The creepy lyrics play well off the upbeat music and wouldn’t have felt out of place on Maybe You Should Drive or Born on a Pirate Ship.
The other two previously completely unreleased songs, “I Don’t Get It Anymore” and “Long While,” come from the recording sessions for Disc One and Everything to Everyone, and it’s easy to see why neither quite made the cut. Both sound like generic Barenaked Ladies songs that might have felt at home on the bloated Barenaked Ladies are Me/Barenaked Ladies are Men albums where they could have blended in and not stood out. But, that’s also why they should be on a compilation like this where the obsessive fans that want to hear all of the unreleased songs the band has done can do so.
Despite the band’s wealth of b-sides and bonus tracks, only two are included here, “Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!,” a b-side from the UK single of “Celebrity” off Everything to Everyone and a remix of “One Week.” That so many other songs weren’t included with nearly 40 minutes of space left on the disc and so many songs that turned up on later albums making the cut is what makes this disappointing ultimately and like an attempt by the band’s old record company to make some quick cash off the band’s archives with little thought to doing the job right. Maybe we’ll get lucky and a second collection will follow including all of the material that should have been included like “Trust Me,” “Powder Blue,” “Inline Bowline,” any of the Yellow Tape versions of songs, or even some more live covers. The material is there and, hopefully, it will see the light of day in a compilation like this.
The 411: The idea of a compilation like this is great, but the execution is disappointing. There are some absolute rare gems here like the “Old Apartment” demo and the live never recorded “Teenage Wasteland.” Even the early recordings of songs that were later rerecorded and released on studio albums aren’t bad. If you ignore the potential rarities collection that could have been released, this is a nice little treat for Barenaked Ladies fans.