No doubt the cynics among us thought the success of Barenaked Ladies' 1998 disc Stunt (4 million copies sold and counting) was a fluke. In this era of boy bands and pubescent Barbie-doll singers, this Canadian quintet—not the most photogenic group in North America—had to be just a passing blip on the pop radar. Guess again. From the opening track "Too Little Too Late," with its ringing guitar chords and hand-clapping chorus, to the circus-music cacophony of "Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel," Maroon establishes BNL as the reigning royalty of power pop. Not since the mid-'80s heyday of R.E.M. has a group crafted such clever musical gems. Employing the Grammy-winning talents of producer Don Was (Paul Westerberg, the B-52s), almost all of these dozen tunes—plus the extra track "Hidden Sun"—seem familiar by the end of the first chorus. None are more irresistibly catchy than "Go Home," which recalls the Lovin' Spoonful in their prime, or the funky guitars and clavinet of "Never Do Anything."
Bottom Line: Play Barenaked—or any other way you want to