Friday, January 28, 2011

Maybe We Never Really Knew Each other Anyway

'Enid' was a nice little song released as a single by the Barenaked Ladies in 1992, off their album Gordon. The Canadian band was just getting their start on Canada's music scene and the song was quite a good start for them (that and 'If I Had $1,000,000').

Hence, this is my song review on it.

I must admit that part of what largely inspired me to write this wasn't just the allure of the song but the way it makes me think of my past relationship, and certain similarities I see in the song's lyrics and overall story - I read on Wikipedia that it's about Steven Page's first girlfriend (Page being the lead singer).
According to the article, inspiration also came from the name of a waitress at a diner in Moncton, New Brunswick, who had such a name. The band had apparently found it interesting that the Welsh name spelled backyards is 'dine.'

To me, the song is about the lead singer's state of thought and bottom-line resolution of what he thinks of his first girlfriend and the ending of the relationship. The chorus goes 'Enid we never really knew each other anyway' and 'maybe we always saw right through each other anyway.'

Lyrically, it's full of the singer's past memories of his first girlfriend, her idiosyncrasies and quirks, his memory of the taste of her lip gloss, etc. etc. He also honestly dishes out his own past thoughts and feelings (e.g. "There were times when I wanted to hurt you/and there were times when I know that I did (whoa whoa)/There were times when I thought I would kill you/but can you blame me I was only a kid").

Essentially, it's a complete analysis of a past relationship, resolving with the singer proving that he's over it (after taking several years) by pointing out all the things he could do to make it work - but rather not wanting to.

"I took a beating when you wrote me those letters" - man, that was so '92. Today it would be 'I took a beating when you texted me those messages' or 'sent me those e-mails.'

Musically, it's quite complicated, especially for such a new band at the time. There's a horn section, acoustic guitar, steel pedal guitar, stand-up bass (which I found a little complicated to learn by ear when learning the song on bass), a cuica, a tenor sax (most prominent in the final choruses), tamborine, and piano. To top it off you've got the rest of the band also providing back up singing during the final choruses.

When they played the song on the Conan O'Brien show in 1994, without all the extra instruments save for the horn section, it still sounded even more complicated drum and bass-wise.

It's a great song that sounds a little bit forlorn, quite reflective, and perky. Steve Page's vocals are fun, enthusiastic and engaging to listen to (and he performs some fun dance moves during the music video).

The music video is another matter altogether. It's one of those clips that uses very low-budget ideas very well. I don't actually know the budget but the effects are extremely simple. The big element of the video is the way the band members appear and disappear, in time to the song, in different places, usually dressed differently as well. The camera does not move at all as people appear out of nowhere to sing and play their instruments.

All the DOP did was stop recording a segment, had the band members change, then simply return to different places and resume playing just as he hits 'record' again.
Another element was the television sets hanging from the ceiling, showing footage of the band performing the song at various places in Toronto. The camera would suddenly zoom up to a TV screen to show a segment of the band playing at Kensington Market for example. Or the screens would show Steven Page or other various band members singing or appearing with a simple blue or light green background.

The whole thing is very funny to me. Not the changing positions of the band members, really, but the picture screen in the background and certain bits of the video. It opens with this odd little clip of two guys, one singing and the other jumping about in the background, wearing some odd piece around their wastes (and nothing else). The singer goes "The silence, the terror, the pain, the horror as your mom comes downstairs..." I read that this was a "pastiche of Depeche Mode." The voice was that of the band's producer Michael Wojewoda.
Then it zooms out from the TV screen and shows an empty studio. The cuica is played, the song starts, and suddenly the whole band appears, the rest of the TV sets turn on, and photos appear on a big screen at the back behind the drummer.

My humor is largely either derived from the sometimes humorous photos on the screen as well as certain segments. During the second chorus, the camera pans past each member - each of whom is smiling ludicrously as they play. Many images of Steven Page appear on the screen at the back, including a ridiculous one of him in an astronaut suit. Ed Robertson (the guitarist) is covered in green paint. There's a nice image of bassist Jim Creeggan wearing either a Balmoral bonnet or a beret (which he wears in studio throughout the video as well) and has a nice expression on his face. Other photos include one of the band on a double-decker bus, one of them all covered in paint and playing trumpets, and a few of Page with a woman likely to be Enid. I'll say quite a lot of those photos have great composition and often very funny-looking characters or great poses/portraits.

The video is great in terms of creativity and pulling it off. Page sings alongside his image on a TV screen, perfectly synced. Another funny scene I find is at the beginning of the 'I can do...' refrain, when it speeds up and the camera pans from one side of the studio to the next really fast. A funny image of Page is on the back screen, and the drummer looks funny sped-up. Page's image looks like it's one too many, and he's really posing for this one, almost like he's conceited or something (that's what I get from it) so his poses get more flamboyant or campy.
A great bit is where Tyler Stewart, the drummer, throws his sticks on the ground before his big drum fill, and as the camera zooms in on him, he instead takes a big bite out of a sub sandwich while the drum fill plays. The problem with him is that he can't move because his instrument is stationary, so while it gets fast near the end and the rest of the band is shifting around like crazy, all he's doing is rapidly appearing in different clothes behind his drum set all the time. There are a couple of admittances where he's shown up front with a little air horn device, and Robertson appears on the drums in the background instead, but it's not usual.

It's quite a creative clip, especially when each of the band not only cuts to different positions, but keeps all the instruments stationary so that suddenly Ed Robertson is playing drums and Jim Creeggan is playing lead singer (and dancing). Tyler Stewart is on the piano while Andy Creeggan is playing Jim's stand-up bass. Steven Page is playing Ed's guitar. And so on. This switches so that Page is now playing drums and Robertson is on the piano, etc. etc.

Embedding is disabled, so here's the link:

The creativity doesn't stop there. I think the album cover is interesting as well - it essentially features a bunch of cutouts of Canada Post mailboxes wrapped around the name. It's original and very Canadian-looking to me, which I like.

It's a very entertaining and engaging song, both musically and lyrically. You get a real sense of what it's about and how the singer feels and felt, and the music is fun and complicated. The music video is very creative and fun/funny, and even the album cover art is eye-catching. It's one of Barenaked Ladies' best and most classic tunes, I think, second only to 'If I Had $1,000,000' (which I think is okay but a little boring and repetitive).

Song (lyrics): A-
Music: A

I'd highly recommend listening to it, particularly if you've just left a relationship you weren't so sure about or have mixed feelings over. It's a great hit from nineteen years ago. I've loved it ever since late 2009 when I rediscovered it through the fun and engaging music video.

Justin C.

No comments: