Reviews: The Automatic Door
The bugger is... the bugger has a whole whack of top tunes, bit like a woozy, but 21st Century mash up of George Harrison, Crowded House, the nutter on the corner and any number of people who get released by Domino Records. This is a record that may be saying a great deal, may have great import, relevance and other things, but right now, we give less than a shit, because it's just grabbed us by the groin n lobes and is just being fan-fucking-tastic.
IS THIS MUSIC?
by Brian Raghoobur
As a native of sunny California, Anton Barbeau has tried to distil as much sunshine as possible on new album The Automatic Door, in which he is joined by Oxford's Su Jordan who contributes her vocal talents throughout.
Not for nothing has Barbeau been labelled "quirky" by the music press, and the evidence continues to stack up on this twelve-song strong collection, not least in the first track's opening lines in which he proclaims his quest "to find [his] inner-hippy". "Staring at the Sun" however is a bright and breezy way to open this upbeat album, and the sunshine rarely dissipates thereafter.
The pastoral "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" and (but for the prominent sampled drumloop) "Went All Wrong" could easily be peak-era Crowded House, whereas the louder "I've Been Craving Lately" is reminiscent of Canadian pop-rockers Sloan.
Titles such as "Aw Gee You Can't See" and "Poking Myself in the Eye to Spite My Finger" may prove too quirky for some tastes, as could in-jokes such as "Who's the Pony Now?" And yet, this album gives the impression that with the right exposure, single, and perhaps if he particularly wanted to, Barbeau could easily make much bigger commercial waves than he currently does.
If Beatles-esque harmonies, crafted pop music and inventive lyrics are your thing, then this album is recommended and sure to please you.
I'm beginning to think Anton Barbeau can do no wrong. Okay, so I came out as an Ant Fan during my review of his last epic, In The Village of the Apple Sun (actually I was very easily converted), but that didn't mean I was incapable of criticising the man. However, any reservations I may have had about a few tiny atoms of that album, appear, uncannily, to have been addressed here. Pairing himself with Su Jordan is an inspired and blissful move—the Ant Sound (carefully guarded amounts Odd, Eerie, Magical, Psychedelic and Iconic) requires the input of a female voice, and Jordan's is the perfect fit. The only place this pairing goes anywhere near close to wrong is on 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolphins', which ends up sounding like Crowded House—but more enjoyable, like they've got a couple of Beatles on harmony (it's Byrds on 'Aw Gee Can't You See'). I can't explain why it reminds me of 'All You Need Is Love', but it does and it's a grower. 'Poking Myself in the Eye to Spite My Finger' is excellent—how could it not be?—which just gets me thinking that Ant's music is so complete, so perfect that everyone should get it. And there's no doubt that Jordan's pulling her weight. The Take 1 version of the title track is an uncorrected joy; 'Staring at the Sun' is irresistible, 'You Can Move a Mountain' is unassailable, 'I've Been Craving Lately' rocks. Myself, I've fallen for the Glam-Country shindig that is 'Who's the Pony Now?' which blew me away from the off. So why is Anton Barbeau not everywhere we look? With music like this, he ought to be.
by Tom Bartlett
After numerous albums, of which this must be something like the thirteenth, Anton unleashes his best work to date. Anyone familiar with his live shows will know the wacky persona which, although working well live, has sometimes grated on record. The Automatic Door however is a lovable bundle of fun.
The hippy-ish fuzz pop for which Ant is best known is present and correct and better than ever. "You Can Move A Mountain," "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolphins" and the title track are among the best he's ever written. Alongside that, there's the standout tracks in the form of the woozy and drunken "Ring Never Bell" and the chaotically psychedelic "I've Been Craving Lately."
The album also sees a new label, Oxford's own Shifty Disco, doing the honours this time. My suggestion is that you check out this album, see Ant live and the delve into the back catalogue where many delights are to be found.
by Nicola Meighan
Behold this wacky "self-made hat-rack" in action. He cultivates a salacious webmistress; he gladly refers to himself in the upper case; he counts a serial killer among his fans on MySpace. He also digitally disseminates vintage, retro-electro pop that trips out on hippy-ish, homespun linguistic japes: "I walked up that hill/in my Beatlest boots/On the Autumnest day I could find/I held out my hands in a Jesusish way/In a effort to heal the blind," he beams on "Ring Never Bell," like Candy Flip with Mother Theresa as their spiritual leader. Barbeau's beaming, carefree melodies belie a compendium of fears and diseases—wherein suffragettes, lepers and beauty queens co-exist in balmy, barmy harmony with billy goats, big businesses and psychic twins.
by Ciaran Jones
Anton Barbeau's fifth release in a little over 18 months reflects the tidal wave of creativity engulfing him, and his collaboration with Oxford's Su Jordan indicates that his song writing skills are showing no sign of diminishing.
A smorgasbord of influences disperse themselves throughout The Automatic Door; the first three tracks could be legitimate Beatles recordings, before the string and ska-infused stand-out track of the album "Went All Wrong" takes us in another direction entirely.
The abundance of stimuli is also reflected in the plethora of themes permeating the record: from "horses on the bed" transfused with a smattering of polysyllabics, the songs are a series of metaphors. The title track, for instance, superficially about a museum exhibit, is transplanted into the political stratosphere with its commentary on the " filthy rich" and the "filthy poor".
Simultaneously melodious, poignant and wilfully obscure, Barbeau has created an almost cryptic pop record that works not only at a musical level, but also an intellectual level.
The Automatic Door is the latest communique from Sacramento's cult-hero. The album sparkles into life with the lilting perfect-pop of "Staring at the Sun", Ant's anodine Lennon-esque tones finely foiled by Su Jordan's crystal clear Englishness. In fact, the juxtaposition of Anton Barbeau's pyschedelic West Coast pop sunshine and a clear empathy with English eccentricism à la XTC and Julian Cope is what makes the guy so special. Every song on The Automatic Door is a beautifully crafted Summer shuffle undermined every step of the way by acerbic, ironic lyricism that always prevents him falling into a bottomless pool of sugary sunshine. The gloriously titled "Poking Myself in the Eye to Spite my Finger" is vintage Barbeau, subtle, esoteric words and pure-pop melodies wrapped up in psychedelic candy.
The Automatic Door is probably the most enduring, accessible record we've heard the man produce, the presence of Su is almost it seems a restraining influence, forcing him to focus on glimmers of light rather than more obscure darkness. The title track is a masterpiece of lyrical genius and upbeat quirky pop but the more crazed psychedelia of "Who's The Pony Now" reminds us this is Anton. Perverse, intellectual, artistic, funny and an absolute master of twisting perfectly good pop songs into something way more meaningful. Truly as cool as folk.
by Delia Dansette
The Californian psych-pop troubador teams up with the dulcet-toned Oxford chanteuse. Anton has a touch of classic finger-in-the-ear vocal styling while Su has a bell-like dryad tone to complement and contrast. First track "Staring at the Sun" leaps straight in, hitting you with its resonant acoustic guitar punches and lush harmonies. A strong flavour of the wistful aura of the early 1970s prog-tinged traditionalists permeates the psych-folk tune. Title track "The Automatic Door" is a great cycledelic, dizzying romp of a space-bubbles-popping merry-go-round. There's a nod to more recent trends in "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolphin" with break styled beats but even that's overlaid with fine Crosby Stills Nash and Young vocal harmonies. Like The Monkees if they'd formed in Cambridge listening to Syd Barrett with a hand from Kevin Ayers on the songwriting front. Four stars (out of five).
by Susie Wild
Hailing from the Californian Capitol, Sacramento, Barbeau has this time joined his psychedelic 1960s anglophile pop with the delightful harmonies of Oxford's Su Jordan to create an album of loveliness that is immensely listenable. Whether talking of bombs, Bush or surfing his Beatles-influenced musings are as pretty-smiley as a 'shroom sunrise. This man sure arrived in the wrong decade and has been showing the world this since the late '80s, but his dedicated followers are happy he's here now, myself included.
He's also one prolific songwriter—this is his fifth album in less than two years for god's sake—with drug-addled lyrics that claim he's been: "Staring at the sun, trying to find my inner hippie, I'm a self-made hat-rack on the run." Ok, so he's pretty eccentric, but that's a good thing, right?
Beardy, foxy folkster Devendra Banhart gets a whole quirkily nasal track—"Who's The Pony Now?"—devoted to him while the final poetic track "As Cool As Folk" sees Barbeau sing: "As cool as folk as beautiful as you are true to me. The light shines through the leaves of every tree." You don't need to take drugs to trip with this album, I can tell you, and I can guarantee it will be a good one.
THE MUSIC MAGAZINE
by Ros James
"Staring at the sun trying to find my inner hippie"—so opens this latest offering from quirky Californian anglophile Anton Barbeau. He obviously didn't have to look that far—the influence of the Beatles, Kinks, and Bob Dylan is clear in this compendium of great-sounding harmonies, folksy melodies and psychedelic oddness. There are echoes, too, of other charmingly weird stuff from days gone by—Incredible String Band, for instance, or They Might Be Giants.
For this latest album (his fourteenth), Anton collaborated with Su Jordan, of Oxford's self-styled "cabaret-world-punk-folk-skiffle act," Inflatable Buddha. She provides an interesting extra vocal dimension, contributing to the happy late-60s feel and helping create something thats good to listen to, as well as likeable, clever and funny.
Being normal is not a problem that Anton has—he might not be your companion of choice to get stuck in a lift with—but you definitely do want to find out what he sounds like.
by Andy Malt
Californian cult and highly prolific singer-songwriter Anton Barbeau returns with another addition to his bulging back catalogue. The Automatic Door is a collaboration with Oxford-based singer Su Jordan, who provides vocals on all twelve tracks. As well is Su, Anton is joined by Kimberley Rew of The Soft Boys and Cake's Gabe Nelson, Todd Roper and Greg Brown, who all complete his band for this recording.
The warm, quirky songs on the album draw on various influences, including The Beatles, The Kinks and David Bowie. Songs like "Went All Wrong," "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolphins," "Ring Never Bell" and the title track "The Automatic Door" stand out as particular highlights.
If you like your music underground then you are, at some point, going to stumble across Anton Barbeau (he's not known as "the cult hero's cult hero" for nothing). If you haven't already, this is as good a place to start as any, as it's packed full of instantly likeable songs and the kind of lyrics that make you want to applaud the stereo.
by Daniel Good
In the second track of the latest in a long succession of albums, Anton Barbeau sings "you can love the lemon skin but loathe the rind". That's a good way to describe how to feel about his twelve song album, The Automatic Door. It has a quaint, likable, feel-good vibe that permeates through solid arrangements of reliably decent, though predictable, songwriting. Barbeau has a knack for blending the old (guitar, harmonica, wurlitzer, accordion) with the new (synthesizers, drones, vocal effects, drum loops) to somewhat quirky, somewhat serious ends. You'd have a hard time calling this album grand, but majesty isn't everything—there are plenty of other qualities to find worthwhile. Besides, if the man can mention big business, bombings, natural disasters, dolphins, war, hippies and terrorism in a single song then you know you have something, um, special.
If you took Apples In Stereo, took away all their cool, all that Elephant Six Collective cred and lastly their hip appeal, then what you're left with is Anton Barbeau. He doesn't care he isn't cool; he rolls around in his awkward love of the Sixties, throwing silly soft-psychedelic songs and lyrics at us as if he'd found a way of ignoring the last four decades (though I think he mentions Devendra Banhart in "Who's the Pony Now?"). It's slightly mad, yes, but forgivable because the ditties contained on The Automatic Door are charming in their whimsical rewriting of history. It's like that Philip K. Dick novel, "The Man in the High Castle," where the Axis powers win WWII—except, in Barbeau's reality, we are in the year 1969, where hippies and happy-folk rule with the world with a limp grip. Best example: there's a song where he actually laughs while singing. Oh, and there's a song called "As Cool as Folk".
Admittedly, there are some good utilisations of newer technologies, such as the Nintendo-inspired bleeps of "Ring Never Bell" and the pleasant sound selection for his keyboard in "Aw Gee Can't You See?". On the whole this album is awash with the kind of charm present in a favourite grandfather telling a well-rehearsed joke—he has the whole room's attention but nobody can quite say why.
Perhaps if Barbeau attempted the feat of not making five albums in two years and instead concentrated that wacky energy into a single qualitative effort he'd have something we could call genius.
With spring moved from down home, temperatures rising and summer time, which lengthens our days, it lacked a soundtrack to complete the set and highlight this state of bliss welcome. This is done with Anton Barbeau and his latest album The Automatic Door.
Adored overseas (at least on the West Coast, even in Sacramento), Anton Barbeau has to his credit more than ten albums in a record folk-psychedelic pop trend.
And indeed, the first measure (or the first time) the song that opens the album, we realized what was going on. A rainbow sky has materialized on my ceiling, I suddenly felt like picking flowers from the garden of my neighbor, I put extensions in her hair and T-shirts while purple striped.
Anton Barbeau prodigal of the Beatles psychedelic canvas background, folk and irrevocably assumes one side bricolo ambush. In 12 songs for slightly more than half an hour, he leads the listener on a little trip geographical and temporal, a California dreamin' wide awake.
The U.S. is surrounded for the occasion with Su Jordan harmonizing his voice judiciously, the Soft Boys guitarist and rhythm section of Cake. The set produces a bright sixties music, New Age Chakra with words consistent with the concept ( "You can move a mountain with your mind" or "Who's the pony now?" To name a few), and the we go blithely from folk baba, song jingle, to the dreamy pop that knows how to make power.
The "peace and love" proclaimed dead and buried and the illusions that were thought lost forever are not, perhaps not. Burst of optimism without side effects, The Automatic Door announces resolutely sunny days.
I go back precious, precious melodies are repeated in Great Britain (now, thankfully) for years. The English pop delicious, the English pop (always) done in house, mixed by hand, created for art lovers of beauty. By Arton Barbeau returns correctly and predictably at the so-called artistic crime. The Automatic Door is the classic example of the album to be passed to posterity. Meticulously to teach at school during the hours of music (but still exists?), in order to understand what it means to thoroughly current music. The part from the Beatles to come to the Smiths (during the eighties, so much shame) to end (temporarily) with the current Franz Ferdinand, to name one of the hottest names in fashion today. And now it all. I go to press again the key play in my cd player.
Final Thought. This music is miraculous for the wounds of the soul. Soothes the pain that is a pleasure.
LES INROCKUPTIBLES (France)
by Christian Larrède
(Translation; read the original here)
The dreamy and nostalgic power-pop of a Californian
Self-proclaimed cult [figure] in California (Sacramento and suburbs), cousin of Adrienne Barbeau (Ruthie in "Carnival"), Anton Barbeau spent too much time, as a teenager, locked up in his bedroom in the company of his guitar and the complete discography of XTC—or of power-pop revivalists like Matthew Sweet. After having got into the compilation bed with Jason Falkner, played with Weezer or recorded with Cake, he offers the stunned universe The Automatic Door, something like his 9th album, led by a voice which moves constantly from that of Lennon, to the gasps [hiccups?] of Bowie. Barbeau asks essential questions ("Who's the Pony Now?"), cuts off some of his songs after a handful of seconds, and criss-crosses the streets of Oxford and Cambridge to record his record. And the finished product (barely more than thirty minutes) sounds as though Donovan had taken a dulcimer into a space shuttle. A magical record, which can make a rainbow appear in a wet sky.
Anton Barbeau does not know the word "rest" and thus she follows launching records on of records. Bad records were they, until would be comprehensive. But and when it is the one better that other, as is justified?
One does not justify, what it is very good.
The Automatic Door was carried through in partnership with Su Jordan and a handful of guests, amongst them, the bonanza guitarist Kimberley Rew, former-Soft Boys and Katrina and the Waves.
The record opens in "Staring at the Sun," where Anton plays some instruments and constructs another excellent letter: "staring at the sun/trying you find my to inner hippie/i'm self-made hat-rack on the run/there ain't in causes it will be alarm
there ain't in causes it will be good reason/it's just hurricane season."
In the second band, Kimberley if makes to notice touching "guitar inverted," that the Beatles had popularized from Rubber Soul. By the way, "You Can Move the Mountain," has a flavor Beatles well.
One of the great moments of the record is the band-heading in two versions and with cynical and amused verses as “except will be me you see, i've lived good life/i to never took too many drugs/i to never cheated on my wife—except will be to her best friend but that was just fling—besides it doesn't really count if i take off my wedding Ring”.
Su Jordan is only with the vocal ones, while Anton and friends take care of of the instruments. This is a well accessible record and Anton until opened hand of its traditional vignettes. Some positive points: the beautiful layer and the beautiful photos of encarte, with simple photos, glad and full of life, as the musicians; the excellent production, and above all, this are the first record where Anton disponibiliza the letters in its site.
Anton decided to rewrite "I've Been Craving Lately," that she had entered in its work with the Loud Family. Ironic letters, perfect compositions and the candy voice of Su Jordan sewing everything. Why this is not success?