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BNL non-album tracks – 10 of the best

Get Barenaked goes all Buzzfeed! With 27 years as a band and well over 300 songs under their belt, Barenaked Ladies have a plethora of weird and wonderful tracks that didn’t quite make a commercial release.

Get Barenaked chronicles some of the best of those discarded gems…

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10. Let There Be Light

Found on: All In Good Time special edition (bonus track)

Kevin Hearn is a startlingly prolific songwriter, and as well as his own brilliant solo offerings, has contributed a whole host of songs to the BNL catalogue; ranging from quirky to sombre, energetic to wistful. “Hidden Sun” (a hidden track from 2000’s Maroon) and “Born Human” (a BNL reworking of Hearn’s Thin Buckle version) deserve a mention, but the breezy, uplifting “Let There Be Light” is one of Kev’s finest moments and could’ve easily found its place on 2010’s All In Good Time.

9. Blacking Out

Found on: Grinning Streak special editions (bonus track)

Black Keys, anyone? Three tracks didn’t make the cut for Grinning Streak: “Who Knew” – a lovely, lilting Jim Creeggan-penned number; “Fog of Writing” – a fascinatingly self-evaluative track about the songwriting process; and this, “Blacking Out”, a catchy blues-fused number. It’s perhaps stylistically different to the rest of the album, hence its exclusion, but it’s still a great tune (and, according to Ed, one of the more testing songs to play live).

8. Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!

Found on: “Celebrity” UK single (b-side), Everything to Everyone special edition DVD version, Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before (rarities compilation)

Technically released on the rarities collection Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before (before the pedants jump in!), this never saw the light of day on a conventional studio release, despite being recorded for Everything to Everyone. Not ones to get overly-political on record (with the exception most notably of “Fun and Games” and “Helicopters”), “Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!” was cut from the 2003 LP, following a tense time in US politics: “Repetition of suspicion / Takes a lie and makes it true”.

Probably the quickest vocal delivery on record from Page; he comments: “Some of the singing is so fast, you might think it’s another language… but it’s not!”

7. Back

Found on: No release; Born on a Pirate Ship b-side

The energy of “Back” can undoubtedly be accredited to the fact that the band recorded this song in the nude, as was tradition for one song per album in the band’s early career. Theorizing about life with paralysis due to a fall down the stairs, it’s a bizarre little Page/Robertson tune, clocking in at a mere 2 mins 40 secs. There’s some stellar work from Ed on banjo and a meandering bassline from Jim, but it still didn’t make the cut for the then-four-piece’s 1996 album.

6. She’s on Time

Found on: Limited editions of Stunt

It’s not hard to see why “She’s on Time” wasn’t committed to the eventual track listing for the band’s most commercially successful album. Although Stunt is pretty unembellished in its subject matter at times (see: “In The Car” and “Alcohol”), “She’s on Time” – detailing a lady’s time of the month – was perhaps a little too biologically descriptive for record company suits.

It’s a great, bouncy tune, though – and one thing remains a mystery: Where’s the drummer?

5. Trust Me

Found on: Shoe Box EP

According to the ever-entertaining Songmeanings site, “Trust Me” tells the story of “an aggressive girl that pursues that song’s narrator. He isn’t that interested in her and is kind of freaked out by her aggressive advances. The role reversal has got him feeling weird, but he is willing enough to have sex. But he is warning the girl that sex is all he wants and he has no desire for a relationship. He is preparing her for the let down”.

So there we have it…

Cut from Maybe You Should Drive, then similarly snubbed from Born On a Pirate Ship, “Trust Me” surfaced on the 1995 four-track release.

4. Moonstone

Found on: All In Good Time special edition (bonus track)

A beautiful track produced in 2009 as part of the All In Good Time sessions, Ed wrote the song shortly after the passing of his mum. Speaking to the AV Club, he explained: “We’ve only played it a few times and I’ve never been able to play it without crying my way through the song. I really love it, I’m really proud of it, but it’s really hard to play. There are a couple of songs like that. I guess that means they’re successful or that you’ve tapped into something in yourself or expressed something, but they’re still hard to approach in some way”.

3. Long Way Back Home

Found on: Limited editions of Stunt

Is this as country as BNL have got on record? “Told You So” and “Ordinary” come close, but the twang of “Long Way Back Home” firmly demonstrates Ed’s affinity with the genre. This song remains a fan favourite and to this day occasionally pops up in setlist rotation; in fact it made its way into the March 2009 Universal Studios show, the first sans-Page public gig.

2. Little Green Bag

Found on: Tom Jones’ Reload album

This reworking of the 1969 George Baker Selection original finds Steven Page and Tom Jones on top form, as the two powerhouse vocalists storm their way through this rip-roaring version of the classic track.

Whilst Jones’ pipes are eclipsed only by his chest hair, Page was not to be outdone by the legendary Welsh crooner, shining on what is surely one of his best vocal performances on record. A gem of a cover.

1. Powder Blue

Found on: US “Pinch Me” single (b-side)

A song any band would be proud of; it’s mystifying how “Powder Blue” was left on the cutting room floor from the Maroon recording sessions. Only performed live a handful of times, this rarity makes a stunning appearance on the 2007 live album Talk to the Hand: Live in Michigan. One of the most haunting, crescendoing tracks BNL have recorded, it goes to show – the Ladies’ volume of work and meticulous quality control leaves quite incredible songs discarded.

And now an insider’s scoop…

Get Barenaked spoke to BNL drummer Tyler Stewart on the subject and asked if there were any songs he wishes his band had committed to an album… 

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“Well it’s funny now because everything gets released anyway – and the idea of the album is perhaps an anachronistic one – an old one. People buy songs, now. We’ve had that debate with ourselves the last few records – ‘Why are we putting out an album, who cares? Nobody listens to an album any more’.

I still like the experience.

I was thinking the other day about the song Powder Blue. That’s an awesome song and it’s also a unique performance by the band. I think we really channeled some cool musical ideas and emotions to support what is a pretty dark song. But it’s a nuanced thing too, there’s a lot in there, and leaving it off Maroon was because it was a little too heavy for the whole record at that point. I mean, think of the songs that were left off that record – that, “Half a Heart”, and Kev’s song “Hidden Sun” – which sort of made it to some of the early releases. They’re all pretty deeply emotional songs.

And they’re all quite sonically different aren’t they?

Yes, sonically different and they hinted at a direction which we were heading in more.

But one of the things about this band – I think we’ve always been capable of way more than people expect. We could pretty much take on any style of music and do it some degree of justice.

There’s a bunch of songs off All In Good Time too. “Moonstone” for sure, definitely, it’s a beautiful song. Also, Kev’s song “Let There Be Light” I think perhaps would’ve been a better choice to fit the album than “Jerome”, for instance.

But the biggest one of all time – I think it’s really beautiful and I still listen to a lot – is a song called “She Turned Away”, a Jim song. You know, Jimmy writes some nice songs, and sometimes they make the ‘album’ and sometimes they don’t, but I really think we hit another kinda vibe there on that record.

Every so often, songs from that album come on in shuffle, and I’m struck by it – because it sounds great – sonically it’s one of our better-sounding albums. I think we were trying so hard and sometimes when you try too hard the results seem forced, but I really think that with All In Good Time we really achieved something huge, and I think it’s aged well for me”.

What are your favourite BNL rarities? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and on the Get Barenaked Facebook and Twitter!

By @liammckinnon

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