The second part of what is essentially a double-album, "Barenaked Ladies Are Men" thankfully does not disappoint. Those concerned about it being comprised of the rejects from "..Are Me", don't be concerned - if anything, this has the edge on the former in terms of sheer listenability.
The album covers all the ground you'd expect: from the emotional ballad ("Half a Heart", "The New Sad") to the rock'n'roll roller-coaster ("Something You'll Never Find", "Quality"), not forgetting their trademark witty, literate pop ("Angry People", "Running Out Of Ink"). It's a cliche, but there's something here for everyone.
On the whole, it's more upbeat than its predecessor, but there's no shortage of emotional balladry. "The New Sad" is up there with "War on Drugs" and "The Wrong Man Was Convicted" in terms of pure, gut-wrenching impact; while the semi-acoustic "Half a Heart" and "I Can, I Will, I Do" add to the atmopshere without slowing down the album's oft-frenetic pace. Opener "Serendipity" is vaguely reminiscent of "Are Me"'s opener "Adrift" in tone.
As good as the more downbeat tracks are, however, the real draw of this album are the catchy pop-rock tracks most of us love the Ladies for. The frantic pace of "Something You'll Never Find" and "Running Out of Ink" is reminiscent of the best of They Might Be Giants, and BNL's own "Gordon". "Quality" has one of the finest choruses of any BNL song, while "Angry People" is vaguely reminiscent of a poppier E2E's "Shopping" - but it's far superior, in every sense. Think Beach Boys crossed with "It's All Been Done", and you get the vague idea.
"Down to Earth" and "Maybe Not" are strong, rocky and catchy songs that can hold their own with anything from "Stunt" and "Maroon", the mid-tempo "Another Spin" is a beautiful fusion of jazz, pop and rock, while the closing double complement each other nicely and are superior to "Are Me"'s already-solid closer, "Wind it Up".
Lyrically, BNL remain at the top of their game here, wit, wordplay and sarcasm all present and correct - but I would suggest that the political sentiment of "Fun & Games" is a little too overbearing. I'm not sure whether they're being semi-sarcastic and self-deprecating in their anti war rant, but if they're not it'd probably be a good plan to keep their politics distinct from their music in future. Their hearts are in the right place, no doubt, but it's a little jarring when such a catchy, upbeat song is filled with such harsh and explicit sentiment.
But that is just a very minor criticism of what is honestly a brilliant album. There are no truly 'weak' tracks, and there are plenty of standouts. If you're already a BNL fan, I'm preaching to the converted; if you're not, this is as good a starting point as any.