Rock: Have you heard the one about the Canadians?

Barenaked Ladies Wembley Arena, London Gorky's Zygotic Mynci Scala, London

Why are the Barenaked Ladies renowned as the world's most irritating band? Too easy: it's because they are the world's most irritating band. Next question. Why are the Barenaked Ladies the world's most irritating band? That's more complicated. Maybe we should blame Canada (to quote South Park). I'm not saying that there are no non-irritating Canadian pop stars, but when you consider how few Canadians you've heard of, and then you consider how irritating Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, Alanis Morissette and the Moffats are, that's a fame-to-irritation ratio that deserves investigation.

The odd thing is that, objectively, BNL's show on Wednesday was the most entertaining, value-for-money show that any fan could wish for. The music was toe-tapping, neatly harmonised and intensively rehearsed - perfect, if BNL's brand of wholesome, semi-acoustic transatlantic bar-room professionalism is what you go for. What made the concert special, though, was the continual joking and chatting with the audience, the improvised raps, the bursts of other people's songs, the teasing of the security guards and the choreographed hoofing. It was masterful cabaret and the crowd couldn't have been any more delighted if there were bare naked ladies onstage as well.

Mind you, the Canadians and Americans in the crowd did outnumber the Brits, to judge by the maple-leaf flags being waved and by the ease with which Steven Page and Ed Robertson, the co-lead singers and guitarists, could get a laugh by saying the word "pub". BNL's latest album, Stunt, reached the US top three, and one single from it, "One Week", topped the US Billboard chart. The single was typically wholesome, semi-acoustic etc, but it incorporated a rap, which in turn included such rhymes as "Like Skywalker, gotta big hunch/ Hey, that's my lunch/ Yoda's a really, really old guy".

And so we begin to appreciate what makes BNL so supremely annoying. They can't distinguish between what's funny and what's just daft and irrelevant. For example, is it actually very amusing to slip into "Livin' La Vida Loca" and "Believe"? Or is it just showing off? And what about when Robertson sings, in another song, "I'd buy you some art", and Page chips in "a Picasso or a Garfunkel"? Have BNL ever stopped to consider whether this interjection adds to or detracts from the song?

Having only ever inflicted their gags on indulgent fans, BNL have come to believe that the very act of telling a joke - good or bad - is enough. They are pop's office pranksters: Colin Hunt from The Fast Show except with worse dress sense - a factor I mention only because they seem so proud of being dough-faced, goatee-bearded, balding men in untucked short- sleeved shirts. Any group who look like Gomez with neat hair should think twice before making cracks about German fashion.

If pop musicians are going to stray into comedy, it has to seem exactly like that: as if they're straying. They must appear to be doing what comes naturally. For instance, when Beck is on stage and he and his band suddenly break into synchronised body-popping, you can imagine that for a weirdo like him, this seems to be a normal and indeed stylish way to behave. You don't imagine him chortling to himself backstage beforehand about how brilliant it'll be. Likewise, when he sings about the New Pollution or the Devil's Haircut, it doesn't seem contrived, it seems as if that's how his mind works. Whereas on his new album, Midnite Vultures, Beck's loopiness gets embarrassing, just because it is so obviously deliberate. One track is a bedroom soul parody: "I wanna get with you," he yelps, "And your sister/ I think her name's Debra." Are you trying to be funny, Beck?

Some other examples: when Jarvis Cocker deadpans, "She told me that her dad was loaded/ I said in that case I'll have a rum and Coca-cola," it doesn't grate, because the song bristles with anger. When Jonathan Richman rhapsodises about abominable snowmen or ice cream vans, he is singing with complete sincerity. On the other hand, when Space or Pavement or the Flaming Lips interrupt the flow of a lyric with a smirking reference to Hannibal Lecter or castration fear or spreading toast with vaseline, you have to assume they don't care what their songs are about. And if they don't, why should you?

Gorky's Zygotic Mynci balance on the border between charming eccentricity and unconvincing wackiness. Their show on Tuesday was introduced by Joe from The Adam & Joe Show, in character as their new manager. He would, he promised, be changing their name to Mynci 2000 and ensuring that they wouldn't be "doing their wonky, strange songs any more".

The horrible thing was that I found myself thinking that he had a point. GZM's can weave enchantingly twisted music, coloured with Megan Childs's tentative violin and Euros Childs's frail falsetto, but they can also let their taste for whimsy get the better of them and bash out such one- joke nonsense songs as "Poodle Rockin'".

Why does Euros Childs have to be so childish? His performance consists of shaking his mop of hair as he plays plodding piano chords. Wearing faded jeans, trainers and an XL T-shirt on an S body, he looks like an extra in Gregory's Girl. And he is Jim Morrison compared to the shy cardboard cut-outs who make up the rest of the band. Lovely as many of their songs are, you have to have some sympathy with the Mercury Records executive who dropped them last year. On second thoughts, you have to have some sympathy for GZM, too. Maybe they are just doing what comes naturally. No one could be this gauche on purpose, could they?

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all