Six years and three albums into Barenaked Ladies' post-Steven Page world, the Canadian stalwarts continue to craft thoughtful, melodic pop/rock. Of course, it's somewhat unfair to even reference Page (who left the band in 2009), but despite the high quality of much of the band's subsequent material, one often misses the juxtaposition of lead singer/songwriter Ed Robertson's sweet-voiced sincerity with Page's broad, resonant yawp. That said, with a title inspired by Robertson's avowed love of pinball, a fanatical hobby he picked after his 2008 plane crash, Barenaked Ladies' 2015 effort, Silverball, certainly feels like a solid return to form. In many ways, Silverball is fairly similar to the two previous BNL albums (2010's All in Good Time and 2013's Grinning Streak), featuring intimate, reflective, melodic songs, tinged with both a wry humor and bittersweet maturity. Of course, some of this maturity stems from keyboardist Kevin Hearn's leukemia, a disease he successfully battled in the late '90s, and which returned during the recording of Silverball. It's a dramatic tension that imbues the album’s closing ballad "Tired of Fighting with You," with a doubly poignant energy. But despite these themes, Silverball is anything but labored and sad. Cuts like the ebullient "Passcode" and sparkling "Piece of Cake" are uplifting and melodic, bringing to mind the '70s AM pop of bands like ELO and the Beach Boys. Similarly, the laid-back "Hold My Hand" and the harmony-laden "Say What You Want" are classic, heartfelt BNL songs that stick in your ears long after they've ended. Whether it's the loss of a bandmate, or the return of a disease, Robertson and BNL often utilize the back-and-forth imagery of pinball to illuminate their deeper lyrical messages. Additionally, on the leadoff "Get Back Up," Robertson turns to boxing in his characteristic tongue-in-cheek way to explore the notion of resilience in the face of defeat. He sings, "Not the second coming of Muhammad Ali, but can I get a 'whoop!' for the boxing imagery?" Ultimately, after a justified period of rethinking the band's approach to pop, Barenaked Ladies have once again found their musical footing with Silverball, and they deserve every "whoop!" they can get.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar