Anton Barbeau – Oh The Joys We Live For
New 12 track album from Anton Barbeau, with guest appearances mailed in from home in these pandemic times by Sharron Kraus, Julia VBH, bass playing saxophonist Fred Quentin and Bryan Poole among others. Ian Canty finds the joys of listening to the boy…
For me there is always more than a frisson of excitement whenever a new album by Anton Barbeau arrives. I haven’t much doubt that he is one of the most inventive minds in pop music today, often pushing into new, uncharted territory, but never forgetting the essence of pop music is a good tune. Thankfully his prodigious output doesn’t result in any fall off in quality and his voice and unique lyrical standpoint act together to provide a focus throughout this new album Oh The Joys We Live For. For me this helps to grant the listener a pleasant sense of continuity, whatever musical waters his muse chooses to sail into.
The LP starts off with the title track Oh The Joys We Live For, a vocoder voice taking us into a sunny but haunting folk rock melody with a lyric that touches on the subject of “pierced nipples” for some reason. Cowbell Camembert then slots into place, a carefree electro-driven piece that also includes a cracking 60s style guitar sound. The unlikely vision in the tale of disco kittens somehow sitting in judgement on disco kids is an inspired delight.
One Of Her Superpowers comes over as more an acoustic guitar-driven thing, with the band kicking in nicely after the intro. This is how to make great, oddball pop/rock. Representing a step away from what has gone before, the oddly-named Filmik has a cool choral drift courtesy of Rosie Abbott’s double, triple or possibly quadruple-tracked vocal and moves with purpose to hip hop electro percussion. It is, in the words of the composer, “a tiny soundtrack to an invisible film”. As unlikely as this may seem, it makes undoubted sense upon hearing it.
Next comes Crystals, a stand-out track of Oh The Joys We Live For. With a laidback, cool flow, Anton is at his most unguarded and meditative here holding forth on typically unusual subject matter, something which renders the whole thing positively lovely. When Life Brings Your Beer seems a song of the delights of a stable, happy life, but this tune also has great guitar work and lopes along merrily at its own pace. Coming at domestic issues from the other direction, I Love It When She Does The Dishes is more to do with mundanity eventually breeding dissatisfaction. The music is propelled by a spongy bass line and Sharron Kraus’ plaintive recorder. This one also contains some backwards guitar from Bryan Poole and Julia VBH’s well-judged and performed vocalising.
On the face of it a driving pop song with a touch of darkness, It’s Alright Rosie is actually a sensitive, thoughtful ode to one of Anton’s cats. The very pretty psychedelic feel, something which is usually somewhere in the background on Oh The Joys We Live For, comes to the forefront for a brief moment at the start of Three Days The Death Enigma. Then it slowly becomes sonically more sombre, as to fit the pitch-black darkness of a lyric which references both infanticide and suicide.
Mortality recurs as a topic on the next number Die Smiling, though it is somewhat lighter in tone. A meaty guitar line and electric clicks play against Fred Quinten’s soloing saxophone nicely here and this tune is immediately followed by Salt Lick. A fuzzy, upbeat number that is a catchy as the mumps, Salt Lick is perfect pop music with tonnes of character and deserves to be heard much more widely. Just like the vast majority of Anton Barbeau’s work in fact.
The album ends on a real high with I Been Thinking ‘Bout You, a blast of pure jangle pop rock goodness that is both thoroughly intoxicating and beautifully put together. At one point Barbeau declares that he’s “a teenage man in a minivan squeezing milk from an old cuppa tea” – I’m not sure exactly what that means other than a flashback to youth’s straightening circumstances, but it is a great line among many others on a record that will no doubt reveal further layers on each subsequent play.
Oh The Joys We Live For is another engrossing and entertaining collection from Anton, an album that opens up a whole world of ideas and sounds for the listener if they are willing to hear it. If you’re new to his work, this new LP is as good a place as any to begin. A fine record that may well stimulate further investigation into Anton Barbeau’s sizable and top quality oeuvre – and what a lot there is there for you to discover!
Anton Barbeau is on Facebook here
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here