Manbird – Anton Barbeau (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Us journalists are fond of describing artists using past sonic reference points, of trying to chart an imaginary family tree or deliberate direction of travel via past sounds and albums. And whilst it is easy to plot such a path through a whole bunch of power-pop mavericks, alternative guitar-slingers and out of the box thinkers for the illustrious Anton, it would be doing him a major injustice to say that he sounds like anything other than himself. The passage of time and a steady output of intriguing and oft-off-beat music will do that for an artist and here we have someone who has certainly put the hours in to that end, as his extensive back catalogue able testifies.

As always he gives us a slice of glorious pop, tinged with a gentle touch of madness, the sound of a fine line being walked between accessibility and oddness, power and poise, wit and wisdom. Manbird is the sound of everything which made pop great and hopefully will do again once the dance-routine and auto-tune set have become TV presenters and fashion company CEOs, a fevered pop dream only perhaps pushed slightly to the left of the mainstream. After all, it pays to make people feel as if they have actively sought such music out rather than merely stumbled across it.

And like the video it comes with, there is a wonderful directness and honesty to the whole affair. Like a magician showing you how the trick is done, the video is made up of as much pre-production, cutting room floor edits and outtakes as it is of conventional video making. And that same honesty runs through the music. There is no effort to surf zeitgeists or follow fad or fashion, the music is what it is, and that is simply 100% Barbeau with all the foibles and quirks which that implies. In fact after years of listening to the man make his mercurial music I feel it is time to petition the OED to include “Barbeau-esque” in the next edition. Who’s with me?

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