Steven Page – Page One
Record Label: Rounder
Release Date: Oct. 19, 2010
Canadian singer-songwriter Steven Page’s third solo album ––– the first under his given name ––––– also marks his first disc of original material since his 2009 departure from the platinum-selling Barenaked Ladies (BNL). Released on Rounder Records, Page One is most assuredly a showcase for the Canuck’s burly tenor and his melodically driven slabs of literate folk-pop.
Vacillating between comedic and candid, Page One is a positive step forward but not exactly the home run one might expect. Having written or co-written more than ¾ of the BNL discography, Page’s inherent talent certainly knows no bounds. So why isn’t Page One the slam dunk it should be? First and foremost there’s far too much filler and secondly, there’s too much self-indulgence.
While the disc opens splendidly, there’s marked departure halfway through that threatens to capsize the entire thing. Album opener “A New Shore,” is an honest confessional in which he sings, “As captain of this merry band of sailors, I’m a black mark. I’m a failure. So before you watch me drown, I’m relinquishing command for something I don’t understand. This man’s about to turn his whole life upside down.” Lead single “Indecision,” follows and it’s a crisp, fluid and perfectly executed stab at radio-ready pop-rock not unlike “It’s All Been Done,’ or “The Old Apartment.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge, he channels Moz on the jaunty albeit saccharine “Marry Me,” and offers up his best Ben Folds imitation on the sardonic ballad “All The Young Monogamists.” Buttressed by sweeping strings there’s an immediacy and poignancy at work here that proves even with a tarnished reputation, Page still knows how to write halcyon pop songs that are equal parts blissful, brilliant and bold.
The rest of the disc offers much of the same, but unfortunately far too much of it feels like filler. When he’s focused, such as the gorgeous “Clifton Springs,” and the tender “If You Love Me,” he confidently continues the discussion that when it comes to catchy ruminations on love lost and found, not many are better than him. And yet for all its charms, one has to wonder why such horrid missteps abound. Exhibit A is the faux-dance number “Queen of America,” and the horrendously stupid “Entourage.”
So even when he’s writing winning pop anthems, Page One, ultimately becomes a mirror to his personal life: brilliant, impassioned and articulate, yet undeniably hinged to hiccups, pitfalls and moments of sheer idiocy. The truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
I recommend finding an acoustic version of entourage. I really enjoyed it stripped down. In dance form it bothers me. Also, the final song, chorus girl, there's an early version on a compilation album that is stirring and beautiful, I feel like this blown out version loses the intimacy and fragile nature that made me appreciate it so much. I think if those two had been switched with the ones that ended up on the album, it would have been really wonderful. I still enjoy it, I just know what it had potential to be.
It's really great to see Page getting the respect he deserves outside the novelty of BNL. I always enjoyed his songwriting contributions to the band, and if he wants to be a little self-indulgent on albums of his own, I say that's the whole point of going solo most of the time. Look at Lindsey Buckingham . . . the guy is one of the flat-out greatest guitarists of the last thirty years, but his albums like Go Insane were at their best when he just went completely gaga over the Beach Boys ("D.W. Suite") which was pure indulgence.