Sometimes the most unexpected thing can catch your attention and send you down an avenue and into a field of knowledge that you ever thought you’d end up in.
A few weeks ago I heard the recent Steven Page single “White Noise” for the first time, and I really enjoyed it. Minimal research revealed that Page was formerly one of the creative forces behind Barenaked Ladies, and that “White Noise” was from his forthcoming album, Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II. From having only the most basic knowledge of Barenaked Ladies career here in the UK (it pretty much boils down to the “One Week” single and the Big Bang Theory theme song), in the past month I have obtained a copy of the band’s debut album, Gordon, their greatest hits package from 2001, and find myself reviewing Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II, despite not hearing either of Page’s previous solo albums.
So what does Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II have in store for the newcomer to Steven Page’s music. Well first off, and before I’ve even heard a note outside of “White Noise”, as this is part two, I’m instantly intrigued as to what part one sounds like. With the opening trio of, “Nothing Special”, “Feelgood Summer” and “Where Do You Stand”, it is obvious that Page is a skilled hand when it comes to penning smart adult pop tunes of all tempos, and with album highlight “What I Got From You”, I now officially want to hear more of what Page has done, both in his solo career, and with his former band, as this is genuinely clever stuff.
Over a quarter of a century into his career, and it seems that Page is comfortable with the fact that the chances of his output appealing to the youth audience are remote at best. Whatever the case, Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II is an album that leaps around stylistically, but always keeps within shouting distance of smart power pop. At various points throughout its duration Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II has sneaky nods from Page to various acts as diverse as Electric Light Orchestra, Randy Newman, and The Housemartins, along with countless others whose music has informed his own down the decades. Ultimately you get the feeling that Page has recorded the album that he wanted to make, and that outside influences trying to compromise his muse and ensure that the album appealed to the widest set of demographics possible just didn’t factor in. This is a Steven Page album that swings from the political to the personal. You’ll either like it, or you won’t, but either way Page will have put the maximum effort in to ensure that it contains the best material that he can pen at the time.
One of the benefits of Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II’s diversity is that it rewards repeat listens. True, “White Noise” and ” What I Got From You” are the two songs which have been leaping out at me as I listen to the album as I write this review, but yesterday it was “Done” and “Feelgood Summer”. This is a good sign of Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II being a grower of an album, rather than one where its full appeal is apparent from the moment you hear it.
If you’re a fan of the work Steven Page did with Barenaked Ladies, or indeed of his solo career, then Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II is recommended. If you’ve not heard anything by Page, but you enjoy smart and mature pop music, then Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II is worth giving a chance.