The Albums That Made James Pequignot: A Chronological Journey Through a Hipster’s Discography. Part One: Barenaked Ladies – Stunt

It was 1998. I was 13 years old. Pop/Rock was still a thing. It’s interesting to think about when you consider how much local music is actually Pop/Rock but no one will say so since it became a dirty word around the year 2000.

Like every single other person in the United States that year I heard “One Week” on the radio. I was obsessed. Keep in mind this was a year or less since my friends and I would sit in the back row on the bus and try to decide if we wanted Sugar Ray’s “I Just Want to Fly,” or Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” to be the number one song of the week. Which one spoke to us on a more human level? There was something different about “One Week” though. While being admittedly silly, it was less dumb than a lot of the declining pop/rock of that year, and rose to definitely be the song of that summer. I didn’t think I could possibly listen to it too many times.

My mom and I were perusing a Dillard’s sized music store at the Great Lakes Mall. It’s a good thing they made it so big. It was much easier to convert into a Talbots when everyone realized they didn’t want to buy that many CD’s. I saw the album on the wall and cajoled my mom into buying it for me. We listened to it in the car on the way home. We had one of those trunk CD changers that operated on a radio broadcast signal. We did alright in the pre 9/11, Clinton utopia of the late 90’s. We got home and put it on my Dad’s giant stereo system. My Mom did something she’s always done. She pulled the lyric sheet out of the jewel case and read along with the songs. I definitely got my lyrical obsession from my mother. At the time the album hit on all the surface parts of my life that I thought were really deep. I was able to make just about every song somehow relate to my unrequited love of Claire Blakely. I swore they were talking directly to me.

Six months later this was definitely the album that made me want to write songs. Everything I wrote at the time was an unapologetic imitation of what I thought Barenaked Ladies was. Even my vocal styling was heavily modeled after Steven Page, something I still suffer with today, but I’ve moved far enough away from to avoid accusations of downright theft.

What hits hardest listening to this album now is how wrong I got it. How could I have known? I was 13! It’s so adult. The voice the songs are written in is so mature. Looking back on their late teens and early twenties I hadn’t even began experiencing the ideas these songs were ruminating on. I wanted so badly to get it. I really thought I was deep for trying. It really made this album, as well as most of their discography, really interesting to sit with as I got older. I would go for a long time without listening and then go back over it only to find that these songs, whose meanings I was so sure of, spoke to completely different parts of me.

I find it hard to listen to the band’s latest releases. I’m definitely team Steve. Ed’s songs spoke to the me of that era, while Steve’s continue to evolve. My wife Amber Pequignot and I got the opportunity to see Steven Page perform live with his new band after his first solo album came out. It was amazing and he continues to be one of my heroes. After the show he hung out in the lobby and talked to all his fans. I got to tell him in person how much his music has meant to me. Stunt was the beginning of my pursuit of the perfect song. It opened my eyes to the world of songwriting and I’ve never been the same. There’s no Smash Mouth, or Goo Goo Dolls album from this era that I can go back and listen to. The majority of my music preferences lie in the post Yankee Hotel Foxtrot indie rock Mecca that was 2002-2007. Stunt still hits me hard, and I continue to find unexpected meaning as this pop/rock gem gracefully ages.

Share
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Leave a Reply