Anton Barbeau is a prolific sort, this being his “30-something’th-plus album” so the chances are if you know the name, you’ll already have one of his albums in your collection – and quite right too. This is my first foray into the sonic offerings of Anton but I’m already hooked, it’s grown-up pop for people that appreciate clever lyrics, witty phrases and intelligent music. At times it feels like a throw back to the early 80’s synth Gods of Depeche Mode and Devo, but it also feels as if they had invited David Bowie around for a studio jam and asked him to add some grit and grrr to proceedings.

We start with title track ‘Stranger’, which feels as if it could replace any song on the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack with it’s processed drum beats and deadpan delivery. If I was expecting happy-go-lucky pop, I was going to be happily corrected because in Barbeau’s world there is an edge to the subject.

‘Dollis Hill Butchers’, although slightly repetitive, is pure 80’s ‘Scary Monsters’-era Bowie and has the ability of forming images in your head, ‘Death and Divorce’ offers a slight change in mood offering bare piano and a melancholic mood that is welcomed when surrounded by psychedelic musical licks and apocalyptic soundscapes.

‘Favourite Items’ could have been a ‘Favourite Things’ rip-off yet it stands on it’s own feet by using equally punchy lyrics and dragging out the chorus to drift into a mantric, thoughtful delivery. One of the tracks even had me travelling back in time and if you’ll excuse this little diversion, I’ll explain…

When I was a younger man, I worked for a company that insisted that their staff had their own personal locker. Now, being that I was maybe twenty years old and ‘infinitely hilarious’, I decided to decorate my locker with a single sticker. This sticker was an image of a bearded, kind-looking fellow with outstretched arms and below read the words; “Jesus is coming… Look busy!” so, with this image in mind, I found myself smiling at the lyric in ‘Quick, to the Basement’ that goes “Quick, to the basement, Jesus (is) coming”.

This lyric kind of sums up the whole album, it’s cleverly written but with an edge that refuses to take itself too seriously, it has the skill to reveal itself over time, each listen unearthing a tiny, precious nugget meaning this album can be returned to again and again. We end the album on more tender moments in ‘Farm Wife’ and ‘Slight Chance’ but these act as cleansers, cooling you down before heading back to the start and beginning again.

If synth-led pop that actually has something to say is your thing, give Anton Barbeau (and his army of thirty-plus album back catalogue) a search, I don’t think you will be leaving disappointed.

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