By now there seem to be two camps of BNL fans: those who pine for the days of Steven Page and those who accept that the band has moved on and forged their own path without him. There's no doubt that Page was a vital member of the group and his voice, as well as songwriting abilities, are nothing short of stellar. That being said, I admire the band for continuing on and All in Good Time was an enjoyable record that proved, at least to me, that the remaining four Ladies are more than capable of making creative and fun music. Seeing them live in 2010 further sealed the deal for me and that show remains one of my favorite concert experiences. They haven't lost a step in terms of musicianship and humor. Their records with Page are a treasured part of my collection but I don't choose to focus on their past. It's what they do from here on out that matters and Grinning Streak, while not their strongest effort, has plenty to offer on its own.
Right away the upbeat pop songs are apparent, with "Limits" and the lead single "Boomerang" starting the album off with plenty of energy. "Off His Head" feels more like the bouncy, slightly eccentric songs of past albums and "Give It Back to You" sounds like it could have been ripped straight from Stunt. "Gonna Walk" is a toe-tapping singalong that will surely make you smile and there are certainly callbacks to the band's past work, though it never strays far from their established formula. "Smile" is bouncy and has an old-school BNL vibe that longtime fans will surely gravitate toward, while the closer "Crawl" is pleasant and engrossing. The band sounds tight and there's enough of the trademark wit and energy to keep things flowing at an even pace.
However, the record also stumbles because of this, mostly because it lacks the diversity that has characterized their past few albums. Ed Robertson sings all but one song on this record, allowing Kevin Hearn to contribute "Daydreamin'", one of the album's brightest spots. Its lush piano melody and gentle vocals give the record some much-needed atmosphere and a shift in sound. For everything that Grinning Streak does right, it does lack the twists and odd-ball arrangements that typically permeate the group's work. Ed's voice is fantastic as always and he carries the band well, yet I do miss hearing from Kevin and Jim, the latter of which has really come into his own and has continued to grow stronger and stronger as a singer and songwriter. All in Good Time felt like a full band effort; this record feels more like Ed with a backing band at times and that feels a bit strange.
When all is said and done, this is a sunny addition to the band's catalogue and it's certainly a worthy companion on your summer road trip. That being said, it also lacks the twists and curveballs of the past. It all slides by pretty quickly and you'll find yourself feeling like you've heard many of these songs before in various forms. BNL has a style all their own but that style is often defined by how they manage to play with it and allow it to carve new avenues, some of which are both challenging and intriguing. There's little of that here and ultimately that holds the album back from being all it could be. Still, it's great to hear from these guys and I always welcome new music from these Canadian rockers. If you know what you're getting then you'll probably be pleased and find enough tracks to justify the purchase. I just would like to see them push themselves a bit more next time and really fly. They have before and I know they can again.