While 2020 may have seen a distinct lack of gigs and tours, it's been a back-handed gift to musicians who like to bunker down at home and get creative with writing and recording. Anton Barbeau is no stranger to either, having recorded in excess of 30 albums. His latest, released in September, does not disappoint. It's a double album featuring 25 psych-pop nuggets which form a loosely meandering concept album, one that has an obsession with travel and birds.
For those unfamiliar with Brabeau's work, his songs mix autobiographical experience with subconscious psychedelic wordplay. Musically they draw on New Wave pop and left-field mavericks such as Devo, David Bowie, Syd Barrett. But they're in no way derivative, a Barbeau song is simply that, distinctively his own. The wonderful thing about double albums is the space it allows for the artist to stretch out. Having that bigger canvas means they can make stylistic shifts, develop themes and really take the listener deep into their world.
It's all here on Manbird, Barbeau's latest collection of cottage industry psychedelia. Homemade with the assistance of a few close friends including Sharon Krauss and Matt Sewell. So what's it all about? The album has a skewed autobiogrphical slant, focussing on Barbeau's growing up in Sacramento. It's an album about roots, reflections and flying the nest. For the most part catchy hook-laden psych-pop rules the roost but there are hand-brake turns into thrashy punk ('Featherweight'), and odd little interludes such as 'Cowboy John', which is the first ever song Barbeau created at the age of eight. It's neatly juxtaposed with a version of 'Greensleeves' that has newly penned lyrics about childhood dogs, broken toys and those peculiar early memories that resonate through later decades.If Barbeau ever decides to write an autobiography there's no doubt it would be a compelling read. For now though, this double disc of delights more than suffices.
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