Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Little Barrie Strips Down Sensational

Barrie CadoganOriginally hailing from Nottingham, the London-based power trio Little Barrie has taken an undoubtedly long road to gain some respect for their stripped-down circa 50s garage rock groove. It certainly didn't help that the band took four years off between albums. But then again, maybe it did.

The band wasn't dead per se, just largely tucked away in the background while playing live with Primal Scream and backing other performers like Paul Weller and actress-singer Mareva Galanter. All that started to change when Virgil Howe, son of Steve Howe (Yes) joined Barrie Cadogan (guitar, vocals) and Lewis Wharton (bass, vocals) as the drummer in 2008.

After working on an album for nearly two years, Little Barrie is now putting faith in their 2011 release King Of The Waves. It hit Japan last December (where it was best received) and in the United Kingdom in June. In the U.S., the band has been mostly releasing it as a steady stream of singles.

“We’ve basically just been doing different things,” says Cadogan. “A bit of it’s been about a matter of personal survival, and also getting to the stage of finding somewhere we could work.”

All of the band members have other projects. Cadogan is now lead guitarist with Primal Scream. Wharton works as a DJ. And Howe also drums for Amorphous Androgynous. The multiple projects have paid off for the band. Their new work is light years better than their early work, especially Surf Hell, which recently became the theme song for the British comedy drama Sirens.

While Surf Hell plays fine as a single, it's the band's latest release that convinced us to take notice. The clean and deeper sound of How Come and the demo Don't Know You Like I Want are vibrant and straightforward, capitalizing on Cadogan's guitar licks and splitting up the lead on vocals.

Even more than Cadogen (who fronts the band most often), the biggest changeup from their sophomore release is the energy. I have to attribute that to Howe. He doesn't just lay down a drum beat like a new session player. He's actively part of the music.

Having a drummer who can drive the music forward is critical for any power duo or trio. If you doubt it, listen to the B-side, Precious Pressure, which slips in its effort to be more soulful. Even Wharton's bass can't keep it moving (like it does on the title track King Of The Waves). Point. Stick with How Come and Don't Know You Like I Want.

When the full release of King Of The Waves hits the U.S. in total, add Does The Halo Rust?, Now We're Nowhere (once it gets going), Dream To Live (for the funk), Money In Paper (for the change-ups), Tip It Over (for the lyrics), and I Can't Wait (for the energy). It's great to see Edwyn Collins working with this band again. He brings out the best in them.

Little Barrie's Upcoming King Of The Waves Swells To 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Although the sophomore release Stand Your Ground received some praise, the contrast between that album and this one is almost startling. The primary difference is when you take this modernized throwback and clean it all up, it loses all its life. Between the studio and the visiting drummers in 2007, it might as well have been a different band. No matter. We really like this one.

King Of The Waves is available in the U.K. iTunes store. In the U.S., download the singles Surf Hell and How Come and show Little Barrie that they might have a few fans here waiting for the full release on this side of the pond. You can also pick it up King Of The Waves as an import from Amazon.
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