Following last year's Oh The Joys We Live For - an unexpected delight - and the brilliant double album Manbird the year before, here's Anton Barbeau's Power Pop!!!, an ecstatic product of lockdown time. The title is sardonic, as Power Pop is a title that has always been foisted on Anton (including, probably, me, to be fair) and he sees it as limiting and facile as a description. The album opens with a short and dramatic bit of synth pop, before the title track: a collaboration with Donald Skinner (bass player with Julian Cope and co-producer of Cope's Jehovahkill) blows us and the genre away - "put down your guns you culture cops, there ain't no crime like power pop", a driving and hooky chorus keeping the groove together.
Similarly, The Sound opens with a withering blast at critics who merely note his influences - "Byrds, Beatles, XTC" - without listening to the actual song, urging us to take a more synaesthetic and psychedelic view. Along with collaborators Rosie Abbott, Julia VBHB, Charlotte Tupman, Karla Kane and Fred Quentin this track in particular is a cool and unsettling piece, probably explained by subsequent song The Drugs, which is an amusing hymn to the essentially harmless consumption the performer engages in: "you bought a chocolate bowl from a woman who didn't know she was a cartoon character"... Memories I can relate to. The album also covers Anton's move back to the US from Berlin, the shock of suddenly having to drive everywhere related in American Road, surrounded by trucks, Trumpists and trailer parks. That song is also in sound a tribute to 80s synth pop and acts such as New Musik, the genre and sound that really seems to have inspired much of the album. Running on the Edge of the Knife in particular is a pitch perfect 80s song, the soundtrack to an 80s crime show that never quite happened (until we meet a loopy yokel at the end, which undercuts it all hilariously).
Three of the songs, the 'Teen Suite' including the lead single track Rain, Rain, are based on compositions from Ant's teen years, and stand up very well. There's clearly a labour of love involved in recreating the sounds and mood of the era. There is a tribute to "natural outlaw" Julian Cope in a song called, well, Julian Cope, about meeting and getting stoned backstage with his hero and playing with him, as well as a short instrumental recorded for much missed bass player Matthew Seligman. Several shorter mostly instrumental tracks pepper the album and give it more flavour, the utterly bonkers Slash Zed Zip my favourite of those, like something Lawrence might have included on Novelty Rock.
While it is less focused than Manbird, Power Pop!!! contains many tracks that are the equal of any on the last two albums and a perfect continuation of Anton's clear genius for hook laden song writing. The group of friends he has recording with him are great as well, sharing his vision and delivering it.
The release date for PowerPop!!! is 25th March, which is shared with Omnivore Records reissue of What If It Works? – Ant's 2006 collaboration with the much-missed indie rock genius Scott Miller – of Game Theory/Loud Family: itself a classic of the-genre-I-dare-not-name which you should get hold of as well.
Anton Barbeau's website here