Monday, January 15, 2007

Stand Your Ground by Little Barrie

In 2005, Little Barrie appeared on the scene with their debut record, 'We Are Little Barrie'. Such an unassuming title was a good indication of the unpretentious, fun loving music contained within. Not only fun and unpretentious, but dazzlingly good. 60s garage rock melded with modern pop sensibilities and a sparse sound was the most danceable release of the year. Then they got rid of their drummer, Wayne Fulwood. The man was the heart and soul of the debut record, his wailing jazz vocals (both lead and backing) lending a feeling of timelessness and groove. Replaced by Billy Skinner on this year's new release, 'Stand Your Ground', whose drumming is just as tight as Fulwoods, Little Barrie present a record that's the equivalent of recieving a box of chocolates only to find that your favourite fudge flabour isn't in there. It's still good, there's nothing much to complain about, but it's missing that special something that normally makes you go looking for a new box as soon as the old one is finished.
Replacing previous knob-twiddler (I'm referring to his production role) Edwyn Collins with (now veteran producer) Dan the Automator is an inspired choice, 'Stand Your Ground' retaining the stripped back feel, while somehow finding space for some volume and texture which only does good things. However, the songs feel increasingly like the Barrie Cadogan show (and yes, I know it is HIS band, hence the name). Where on 'We Are Little Barrie' the interplay of all three musicians (Lewis Wharton providing some of the years coolest basslines) was a clear strength, now Wharton is often relegated to sitting lonely and bored on the root note, while Skinner keeps a tight, if uninventive rhythm, and both stand back to watch Cadogan hold the melody while singing both lead and backing vocals.
Don't expect this to be the record that hurls Little Barrie into the Mainstream (lead single 'Love You's chorus is so bad it is barely made up for by the awesome remainder of the song), as there's no stand out classic single, those who were hoping for another burst of joy from a band that knows and acknowledges its roots without apeing them will probably wind up a little disappointed.

2 1/2 stars

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