Natural Causes –  Anton Barbeau (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

21686364_10155773086762718_2635670891036125519_nYou can tell a man, they say, by the company he keeps. Okay, hardly the most up to date cliche to kick off a 2018 music review with but apt none the less. Apt because the mercurial Anton keeps excellent company and a quick scan through the musical posse who have helped him record this album reveals an ex-Soft Boy, a brace of Corner Laughers, people who bandy around names such as Smash Mouth, Neil Finn, The Pretenders and Sir Paul of McCartney as previous employers and even the marvellous Nick Saloman. With a line up such as that the results can only be great, how could they not?

For those new to the strange and beguiling world from which Anton draws his songs, very simply put he blends the later era Beatles acid laced sonics with a more driven new wave, post-punk edge, particularly when he picks up the pace. And when he does pick up the pace he creates songs like Just Passing By, a rarified rock groover that any number of Paisley Underground acts from back in the day would have fought to the death to get their hands on. But his more usual sonic comfort zone is a gentler, pastel pop place, usually with a very keen eye for a good, and often hippyfied, title.

It’s the Coffee That Makes the Man Go Mad is Barbeau-ism in a nutshell, intriguing title, joyous pop strains, sumptuous harmonies, lilting and chiming tones and a middle section that heads into a strange sort of medieval monastic chant and the suggestion that the inspiration for songs such as this has more to do with something stronger than coffee. Magazine Street is a great slice of pop-rock and Summer of Gold evokes all the hazy joyousness that the name suggests. Being an AB album there is obviously room to wander into odder territory, its pretty much expected and Mumble Something sounds like buzz saws and angry wasps were involved in the sonic finish…in a good way…whilst Creepy Tray is a strange and exotic piece of chamber pop.

If you are a fan of Anton already, this is classic stuff and you probably already have a pre-order in, if you are new to Barbeauland then this is also a perfect place to start and if you have ever wondered how you make an album that walks a fine line between the cultish and the commercial, that is infectious yet original, accessible yet maintaining its integrity, then this is definitely for you.

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