Big Stir Records and Anton Barbeau have announced the March 25 release of Anton‘s album POWER POP!!! The new collection features 19 tracks balanced between fully formed songs (including the lead single “Rain, Rain”) and a handful of fascinating interstitial miniatures. It’s available for pre-order on CD and digital formats now at www.bigstirrecords.com and most online music outlets, and will be streaming and on record store shelves worldwide upon the release date. It follows on the success of a string of recent albums including 2020’s ambitious Manbird and last year’s Oh The Joys We Live For on Big Stir, both acclaimed as high points in Barbeau‘s prolific career. The release date of the album is shared with Omnivore Records’ lovingly curated reissue of The Loud Family and Anton Barbeau‘s What If It Works? – Ant‘s 2006 collaboration with the much-missed indie rock genius Scott Miller – making the day a landmark in the legendary psychedelic troubadour’s storied career.
It’s to be said at the outset that the title of POWER POP!!! is archly ironic: Barbeau intends the album partly as a rebuke of the self-imposed limits of the titular genre. He’s not sugarcoating it, either: “Put down your guns, you culture cops, there ain’t no crime like power pop” is just one of the pointed barbs in the title track (which also happens to be as filled with hooks and grooves as anything Anton‘s ever done). The ongoing critique is amplified in “The Sound,” a driving psychedelic takedown of facile genre purism, and the garage/new wave ode to “Julian Cope,” a key Anton influence and fellow iconoclast equally known for blending melody and quirk into something utterly new.
But more than a sharp commentary laced with both kinds of acid, POWER POP!!! is very much about Anton reinventing the very wheel he’s puncturing. “The concept is, early ABBA gets hipped to Krautrock, disavowing their Schlager roots. Drugs happen. Their tight, super-pop sound merged with the kosmische vibe catches the ear of young David Bowie who offers to produce their next record. They convince him to co-write and sing on the record, and the rest is alternate-history,” says Ant. “Can’t say I lived up to that, but out of noble ambitions grow tiny Raspberries, I suppose!”
As always, those ambitions and Barbeau‘s wandering muse lead him down other avenues as well, from the rollicking surrealist cowpunk of “Hillbilly Village” to the nearly-self-explanatory “The Drugs” and the song fragments scattered amongst the fleshed-out tunes, each with its own rewards. But the primary thread emerging from the tapestry of styles and sonic textures on display might be a sort of psychedelic synth-pop, with Anton making no secret of OMD and New Musik as primary inspirations. You can hear it on the dance-groove- propelled “Free,” the unabashed electropop of “The Never Crying Wolf Boy,” and “Running On The Edge Of The Knife,” which could be an extract from the soundtrack to an ’80s action film until it takes a left turn (quite literally) into a rustic pigpen. It’s a quintessentially Antonian juxtaposition and, like so much of the record, a giddy delight.
Listen at the Big Stir Website
Those dominant synth soundscapes inspire some of Barbeau‘s most indelible melodies and vocal performances, from the fresh compositions like the harrowing “American Road” to the-album closing Teen Suite. There, Anton reimagines a trio of his early recordings to compelling effect: “Whisper In The Wind” is simply lovely, the new single “Rain, Rain” stands with the best of electronic pop music then or now, and the touchingly tender “Valerie’s Waiting” hits a mark between chamber pop and new wave that’s a world of its own.
More than a broadside, POWER POP!!! sees Anton Barbeau charting his own path forward as always, inviting the adventurous pop-rock fans of the world to follow. He’s aided and abetted in his work by like-minded luminaries like Donald Ross Skinner (known as Cope‘s longtime collaborator Donn-Eye), guitarists Kevin Allison and Charlotte Tupman, saxophonist Fred Quentin, multi-instrumentalist Rosie Abbott, and vocalists Karla Kane (of The Corner Laughers), Lara Miyazaki, and Julia VBHB, Anton’s wife who’s also the graphic designer for the album. It’s a work so unfettered by genre constraints that it can only be seen as Anton Barbeau‘s next leap, with much to offer to longtime fans and newcomers alike.
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