Big Stir Records kicks off 2019 with their first album release of the year, and it’s a big one…the 31st album from legendary psychedelic songsmith Anton Barbeau. “Anton Barbeau Presents Kenny Vs. Thrust” available on CD and download on Friday, January 24 and is available for pre-order on the Big Stir Website now.
Anton’s first album release was in 1993…there’s far more history than we can provide in the context of this review, so please visit his Artist’s Page on Big Stir Records, as well as his own Website for more information.
As a creative force, Anton’s music has been compared to XTC, Robyn Hitchcock, Julian Cope and other pioneers of the “turn and face the strange” school of pop songs meet psychedelia. Any one song can veer from a more “traditional” pop format into electronica and experimentation at the drop of a hat, then inexplicably find its way back home before the closing notes.
Everyone walks away with their own take on his music…mine was “Marc Bolan fronts The Doors with “Monster”-era Michael Stipe and Peter Buck from R.E.M. sitting in.” Does that sound preposterous? It’s not, because you’ll find it all in these grooves.
“Kenny Vs Thrust” isn’t that far removed from Syd Barrett’s “The Madcap Laughs” or other journeys to the most distant realms of the creative sphere, although Anton isn’t limited to wearing that single hat. You’ll hear what others have heard, and you’ll hear new things on your own, because the music and lyrics leave themselves open to whatever you’d like to find in them.
The opening track, “Wire From The Wall,” is not a 3:32 ode to literally pulling a wire from the wall, just as Sir Paul was not literally “fixing a hole.” It’s an anchor point, a tether, to set the hot air balloon of abstract art into the skies, to float over you, and to allow it to be whatever you need it to be. That’s where I see a Bolan connection…Marc built his own impressionistic playground, with wordplay that was often impossible to decipher on any literal level, and you were simply expected to jump in and romp without giving it too much thought.
“Beautiful Bacon Dream” begins with a sort of subverted “Peter Gunn” riff, with a beckoning “come on, come on, come on” midsection that melts into silence before launching back into the riff. Is he actually having a beautiful dream about bacon? Perhaps. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about the vibe, the attitude, finding some secret river in which to navigate the canoe through the rapids.
“Jingle Jangle” lives up to its name…there’s wonderful, ringing guitar to spare…as Anton croons “Love me, hate me, don’t penetrate me, I’m gonna walk on the sand…”
“Tidy Up Yourself”…as implied by the Marley-esque title…offers a psychedelic take on Reggae…it’s all fair game here, as genres and moods are appropriated as needed, rather than piously adhered to…“Tidy up yourself, stinking sailor…Tidy up your lungs…Tidy up your bongo drums…Tighten up your toms, Roger Taylor…”
The album closes with what is perhaps its most “conventional” song, “Burning Burning.” largely acoustic-driven, with wonderfully swirling electric guitar punctuations.
It’s an adventure, a response to those who think they’ve heard it all before, that’ it’s all been done…multiple times…and the frontiers of exploration have been exhausted for all time. They haven’t. Give this one a spin and you’ll find out.