Weirdly Wonderful Indie Pop-Rock from Anton Barbeau

20 Jan

For more than 20 years, Anton Barbeau has been creating weird, wonderful indie rock, pop, psyche, and new wave. Originally from Sacramento and still with many Northern California ties, the talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist spends most of his time now as part of the Berlin music scene. This meant recording his latest album, Magic Act, “all over the foooooking place” as Barbeau states in the notes: in studios in Berlin, London, Spain, Italy, Oakland, and Sacramento — as well as in a number of home studios.

Barbeau’s work is always original, unexpected and sometimes irreverent. Like Bowie and the Beatles (which his music periodically pays homage to), Barbeau likes to test the boundaries and experiment with his art — occasionally pushing the listener right to the edge. The titles hint at which ones might be high on the quirky quotient — “Black Lemon Sauce,” “Sit Your Leggy Down,” and “Heavy Psychedelic Toilet.”

But even the strangest compositions feature Barbeau’s exceptional musicianship and attention to detail. As mentioned above, he plays a lot of instruments himself: guitars, piano, Mellotron, synths, bass, drum machine, and various electronic gadgets. Still, on Magic Act, Barbeau had the help of a lot of name artists as well, including Colin Moulding of XTC, Morris Windsor and Andy Metcalfe of Soft Boys and Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians, and Karla Kane and Khoi Huynh of The Corner Laughers — among others.

The album starts off with “High Noon,” one of the most Bowie-like songs in terms of vocals. Driven by an insistent beat, scratchy guitars, and some fun synth touches, the song poses the question, “Did the CIA really kill the Virgin Mary by sending her on a suicide mission to the moon?” Hmmm…

“Broken in Two” is a melodic, Beatles-like track with strumming guitar, varied musical layers, and power-pop vocals. The song even fades out with about a minute to go and then returns for a closing coda, like the Beatles did with “Strawberry Fields” and “Helter Skelter.”

“Black Lemon Sauce” is a new wave, dancey pop earworm that you don’t dare play unless you want the tune running through your head for the rest of the day.

“Heavy Psychedelic Toilet” is very Beatles-like from their experimental period. Great lyrics with references to images one could only see in a drug-induced dream and even a nod to Star Trek, “Beam me up please, Mr. Scotty.” Far out!

“Swindon” is Brit-rock from the 1960s — a strummy love song with harmonized vocals and an electronic drum track. And “Blue Lamp Rider” is jittery electronica with some psyche influences.

If you can get past Barbeau’s zaniness, Magic Act is an album you’ll really enjoy. There are a tremendous variety of musical styles, and the compilation grows on you with each spin.



2 Responses to “Weirdly Wonderful Indie Pop-Rock from Anton Barbeau”

  1. lostinsacramento January 22, 2016 at 4:01 am #

    I’ve been an Ant fan for about 29 years now and am thrilled he’s still got the old what-ho after all this time. Thanks for getting the word out!

  2. Gutter Swan (@gutterswanmusic) January 22, 2016 at 4:35 am #

    We’re excited to be playing with Anton Barbeau and band on March 25 with The American Professionals, and The Corner Laughers at Neck of the Woods in San Francisco.

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