Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Anton Barbeau, Natural Causes, 2018

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

If you wanted to buy Anton Barbeau's first album, The Horse's Tongue, in 1993, chances are that you would only be able to get it on a compact disc. By that time, vinyl had pretty much disappeared -- at least in the United States -- from what were still being called record stores.

Barbeau's new album, Natural Causes, is his follow-up to 2016's quirky and tuneful Magic Act. And 23 years after The Horse's Tongue, Magic Act became his first album to be released on vinyl. Barbeau has said that, in making Natural Causes, he was treating it like a second album. As a result, he took the opportunity to revisit some of his older songs.

The first song on the new album, "Magazine Street," was also the first song on his first CD. It's a rocker and already contained some of Barbeau's trademark visual imagery: "See-through curtains and open doors," "the wind was howling like a wounded dog," and "I came upon a little German girl on Magazine Street of perfect lips and iron will."

Andy Metcalfe, who has played with Robyn Hitchcock and was in the band Three Minute Tease with Barbeau (and also played on Magic Act), provides some amazing bass work on "Magazine Street." Speaking of Three Minute Tease, that band's "It's The Coffee That Makes The Man Go Mad" is also revisited on Natural Causes.

Another of the remakes on Natural Causes and one of the album highlights is the gorgeous "Summer Of Gold." Nick Saloman and Ade Shaw of the Bevis Frond play on the song, and it's a great mix of shimmering guitars, mellotron, and a terrific guitar solo. The song was first recorded for Allyson Seconds's wonderful Little World album from 2016 which Barbeau played on, wrote, and produced (You really need to check that one out if you haven't already). 

The wonders of nature and life on our little world are also very much a part of the magical "Just Passing By:" "She opened her hands up / To show us a tea cup / To show that we'd not forgotten how / How to see / See through walls / See the ocean after all / See the air in the sky / See the life just passing by."

On Barbeau's two albums from 2016, he worked with one of my favorite musicians, Colin Moulding, bass player and songwriter from XTC. After that band broke up in 2000, I didn't hear much about him until Magic Act and Little World. Moulding is now very busy having released the TC&I EP last year with former XTC drummer Terry Chambers, and they're  doing some live shows as well.

I bring this up because Barbeau has done it again. On Natural Causes, the great guitarist Robbie McIntosh plays 12-string on "Disambiguation" and "Down Around the Radio." For me, McIntosh's best work was on Pretenders' Learning To Crawl, Paul McCartney's Unplugged, and his own solo acoustic albums. It's great to hear Robbie again on this new album.

Natural Causes is out now on Beehive Records.

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