Anton Barbeau - "In The Village of the Apple Sun"
(Four-Way Records 2006, CD-23023)
From Aural Innovations #35 (January 2007)
Anton Barbeau has been around for quite awhile (his earliest releases date back to 1993, and this is his 12th album!) so I confess I was a little surprised that this was the first time I'd ran across his name. The self-proclaimed "singer-songwriter of intelligent, fractured pop" is right in there with guys like Robyn Hitchcock and perhaps Julian Cope (at least Cope in the pop phase of his personality).
This is eccentric, psychedelic pop music, with trippy (often nonsensical sounding) lyrics, playful in nature, sometimes cheerful, sometimes wistfully melancholy. Barbeau has a gift for catchy melodies, and you'll hear them in every song. Sometimes they can get a little annoyingly too catchy. But when you hear a song that consists of "My hair is oily, my hair is dry, I'm going to live forever till the day I die" sung over and over again to a joyous, march-like melody, I think Barbeau is probably smirking and saying, "I know!" to that accusation. But I did find it occasionally annoying that some of the songs (the previously mentioned My Hair Is Oily not withstanding) did get a little bit lyrically repetitive. I want to like songs like This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7 and Mushroom Box, 1975. They're catchy, and inventive, with just the right amount of weirdness. But when their choruses consist of the song title endlessly repeated, they just get a little bit boring.
But not all the songs suffer from this problem. In the cheerful and soaring Bicycle Built For Bicycle 9, the occasional repetition works because it conjures up the pedalling motion of the bicycle, and is balanced by a delightfully melodic chorus. The hazy, summery and quite trippy In the Meadow of the Mellotron and the wistful, beautiful title track are both real winners as well. Trippy little psychedelic experiments like the brief 46 Strings and Coffee Pot (the latter which just consists of gurgling sound effects) act as bridges between the pop numbers and add little bits of freaky weirdness to things, which I liked too. The fact that these little bits (like ten seconds of the sound of a movie projector running) are given their own song titles (Bane Projector) only adds to the eccentric fun of the album.
While I can't give it full points because of those repetitive parts, there's still plenty to enjoy here. If you like the artists I mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, then it's worth your time to take a little trip down that side road and spend an afternoon In the Village of the Apple Sun.
For more information you can visit the Anton Barbeau web site at: http://www.antonbarbeau.com.
Visit the Four-Way Records web site at: http://www.fourwayrecords.com.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald