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Monday, 12 December 2011

Anton Barbeau, Audioscribbler

ANTON BARBEAU
EMPIRE OF POTENTIAL

***1/2/*****
It’s no surprise to learn that comedian Stewart Lee is a fan of Anton Barbeau. Both acts share a left-field approach to their respective crafts, along with a fondness for de-constructing their material until it resembles something with a much deeper resonance than a mere joke/song. A treat then to come across this compilation which stretches back over Barbeau’s lengthy and prolific career — a career that has seen him make 13 albums. The fact that none of these have crossed over into the hearts and minds of the mass record buying public is by no means an indication of sub-standard product, it’s an irony neatly summed up by Empire Of Potential’s subtitle - 18 Golden Completely Obscure Hits By Anton Barbeau.For the most part his songs are offbeat and poppy, with a nicely skewed intelligence. The nearest comparison would be prime-era REM, which could be something to do with the combination of winningly catchy, upbeat tunes combined with obtuse and idiosycratic lyrics. It’s hard to resist someone who comes up with song titles such as “Leave It With Me, I’m Always Gentle”, “This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7” and “Please Sir I’ve Got A Wooden Leg”. It would be nice to think that in some distant, parallel universe, songs with such quirky titles would trouble the upper reaches of the charts. Barbeau sings with an English-sounding American voice, (fitting as he’s spent the last 10 years as a resident of Cambridge), it’s timbre similar to that of Big Star’s Alex Chilton.
There are guest appearances throughout from fellow psych-pop adventurers such as The Bevis Frond,Allyson Seconds, long-time collaborator Scott Miller and Soft Boys Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor, who are now also part of Barbeau’s current band Three Minute Tease. Their contribution here being a re-recording of “The Banana Song” in which our hero’s doctor recommends everyone’s favourite yellow fruit as a cure for acne. Yep, it’s that kind of album.

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