Critical Mass

 

Reviews of The Golden Boot: Antology, Vol. 2

ROCK BEAT INTERNATIONAL
by Beverly Paterson

Hundreds upon hundreds of folks these days are stashed away in bedrooms, dens and basements, making music all by their lonesome, sans the assistance of big expensive equipment or a major record label to distribute their wares. One such musician who has been doing the independent thing for a number of years is Anton Barbeau, whose super-catchy hymns truly deserve to be relished by a wider audience. Oh sure, he's achieved a fair amount of attention in the underground press, but it would be nice if his songs were played to death on the radio so they could excite and inspire the whole world.

The Golden Boot (Antology Vol. 2) contains an assortment of outtakes that are equally as good, if not better, than any finished product. The quality of the tunes on this disc is simply fabulous. Anton really pours his soul into his material, turning in an impassioned performance that stems directly from his heart and belly. The spirit of John Lennon is evoked in a great deal of Anton's work, as not only does his voice often sound uncannily like that of the famed singer and songwriter, but a similar sort of on-the-edge pop sensibility also abounds. Shades of psychedelic whimsy are evident in select realms of Anton's songs as well, not to mention snippets of arty new wave rhythms that twitch and teeter with charming quirkiness. Although a retroactive temper frequently hangs over The Golden Boot (Antology Vol 2), these tracks are not what you would call slavish imitations of an era gone by because the attitude and delivery are contemporary and the melodies are as fresh as a loaf of bread that just emerged from a piping hot oven.

Cuts such as "My Special Table," "Xmas Song" and "C'mon Girl" prove to be sparkly slices of pure pop nirvana, topped by chiming guitar crescendos and sharply defined hooks. A slight reggae feel peppers "Bed of Pain," while the totally ridiculous "Banana 2000" captures Anton in a silly state of mind. In fact, lots of stuff on The Golden Boot (Antology Vol. 2) could easily be categorized as fun and games, since a carefree mood regularly blankets the tunes. Snappy chord changes and intriguing lyrics also lead the album to be a strongly recommended spread of tasty homegrown pop missives. A mark of excellence it is!

 

POPMATTERS
by Gary Glauber

Prolific, pretentious, precocious, intelligent, quirky, nasal, amusing, annoying to some, pop genius to others, and never ever boring -- this my friends is the cumulative description of northern California's musical auteur Anton Barbeau. His odd brand of melodic pop and clever wordplay might not be everyone's proper cup of tea, but I for one decidedly consider myself an Ant-thusiast. Let me put it this way: who else writes great songs about tables or bananas? Anton fills a need you might never realize you had and does it well.

The prolific Anton B. (this is his fourth CD release since 1999) always provides an interesting and diverse listen and this disc is no exception. The Golden Boot (Antology Vol. 2) is more a rarities compilation than a best-of collection, yet still offers up an impressive range of samples from the Barbeau oeuvre, and is most certainly worth your eartime, for long-term fans and newbies alike. This unsung gem of a songwriter knows the pop idiom well, and seems to craft songs with catchy hooks and wry lyrics almost effortlessly, along with an ever-changing cast of female names peopling those songs.

The musical arrangements vary in complexity, from low-tech home recordings to more fully-fledged studio work (often featuring guest artists on harmonies and some great work by Don Hawkins on guitars, Erik Kleven on bass and Creed Maggiora on drums). However, you're assured of wonderfully melodic tunefulness, with pop hooks galore in all the right places.

The liner notes here are written by Bevis Frond frontman Nick Saloman, telling how wowed he was by opening act Anton B. in 1999. So why isn't Anton Barbeau a household name? He writes songs that deserve wider recognition. Sometimes it's an unfair universe. Some might not be able to get past the nasal voice or the intelligent and often head-scratching quirkiness of the lyrics or the wonderful adolescent lechery masquerading as love.

In the big musical world, admittedly Anton's stuff might not be for everyone. He's far too smart for the masses -- but that's okay too. As obscure gems go, he's one of the best. Much like his mentor and sometime producer Scott Miller (Loud Family, Game Theory), Barbeau is the toast of musicians in the know, writing incredibly wonderful pop songs, yet he continues to bask in relative obscurity with the general public at large.

This collection of playful ephemera is further evidence of Barbeau's many talents: lyrics that disarm you with their intelligence and wit, music that has you humming along effortlessly. The Golden Boot (Antology Vol. 2) is a must for Barbeau fans, but perhaps a better starting point for newcomers might be his latest 17th Century Fuzzbox Blues or 1999's A Splendid Tray. Someday the world might wake up to this man's many talents, but until that time, buy his CDs and lead your own parade out of Sacramento to help spread the good musical word.

 

HIGH BIAS
by Michael Toland

Sacramento's Anton Barbeau has been quietly producing superb pop music for a decade now. Despite ringing endorsements from critics (not to mention Nick Saloman of the Bevis Frond) he's yet to reach the wider audience he deserves, even within the pop underground. Still, he's prolific enough to release his second album of odds and ends. Due to his brilliant consistency, The Golden Boot is as good as anything in his catalog. Barbeau has a gift for combining eccentric lyrics and subject matter with winning melodies and indelible hooks. Great tunes like "Helen Mirren," "Banana2000" and "Sula 2" resonate far longer than their superficial novelty value might indicate. And while his words are always quirky, he knows when to switch from zany to heartfelt in damn catchy tunes like "Octagon," "Third Eye" and "C'mon Girl." Want insight into Barbeau's character? This is a guy who thinks, in the irresistible "The Horny Old Ballad of Tracy Shellac," that all he has to do to get Tracy in the sack is "light a little candle/And spin a little Bevis Frond." He's a power pop geek of the first order, but he'll get luckier if he plays a prospective date his own marvelous material.

For fans of: Brendan Benson, E, They Might Be Giants' "Birdhouse in Your Soul"

 

POWER OF POP
by Kevin Mathews

My introduction to the screwball pop world of Anton Barbeau came courtesy of the first volume of this series which collects "outtakes, remakes, home bakes and rescued rejections captured FOR REAL on everything from glorious 24-track to gory mono-cassette" and since then I have thrilled to every new Barbeau release. The Golden Boot is no exception and will prove to be an absolute treat for fans of Syd Barrett, Robyn Hitchcock, Elvis Costello, Loud Family and Guided by Voices. Highlights include the haunting "The Horny Old Ballad of Tracy Shellac," the offbeat Byrdsy "Xmas Song," buzzy delightful "My Special Table," witty bubblegummy "Címon Girl," the folky "None Fun," the esoteric "Someone Called Him Ron" and the dynamic "Helen Mirren."

 

AMPLIFIER
by Eric Sorensen

Pop fans "in the know" are aware that Anton Barbeau is a prolific songwriter who has been toiling away for over a decade, recording and releasing some well-crafted, quirky, Lennon-esque tunes. The Golden Boot showcases Barbeau's gift for combining catchy melodies with witty lyrics. This latest offering features twenty-two songs (although the jewel case only identifies 19 tracks) that vary from stripped-down, home-recorded demos to full-band, 24-track studio efforts. This variety in recording media and the variations in song tempo will keep the listener hooked on this compilation. "Xmas Song" stands out as a chiming pop tune that will remind Amplifier readers of the Rooks; and speaking of the Rooks, "Delores" is a sparse acoustic song that sounds a lot like Rooks' lead singer Michael Mazzarella's solo work. "Someone Called Him Ron" can pass for a John Lennon acoustic tune, and "Banana2000" opens with a Devo-esque styled riff before emulating an Adrian Belew composition. "Helen Mirren" is one of those perfect mid-tempo pop tunes with layered vocals that will get your toes tapping. If you aren't already familiar with Anton Barbeau's repertoire of material, The Golden Boot is a terrific place to start.

 

ALL MUSIC GUIDE
by Erik Hage

Even the greatest eccentricities on this collection are forgiven in the face of Barbeau's blissful pop touch. "Xmas Song" is the greatest song Robyn Hitchcock never wrote, with a vein of chiming, euphoric pop that can be traced back to the Byrds. The lyrics show some typical Hitchcock oddness, with a holiday call to "keep the chestnuts safely from the penguins." Just to further prove himself an enigma, Barbeau follows the crystal-clear beauty of that track with one of the most grating songs on this collection, "Little Bleep Bleep," with its roughed-up power chords and murky production topped off by Barbeau's Elmer Fudd vocal stylings. This is an inconsistent collection of lo- to medium-fi odds and ends that in its brightest moments attests to a rare pop talent.

 

FUFKIN.COM
by Mike Bennett

More oddball musings from Barbeau, this is his second set of outtakes, alternate mixes, etc. Barbeau is a craftsman who dabbles in a variety of styles and can generally be counted on for hooky fun. His nasal vocals and sometimes utterly impenetrable lyrics may be obstacles for some. But if you can get over that, this is a disc that combines the snarkiness of They Might Be Giants with the more "normal" (?) pop-rock leanings of Robyn Hitchcock and The Loud Familyís Scott Miller.

 

SPLENDID E-ZINE
by Ron Davies

On his sixth release, Barbeau offers a selection of outtakes, demo versions and similar ephemera. For those unfamiliar with his repertoire, Barbeau travels the same melodic paths frequented by musical oddballs like Robyn Hitchcock and Elvis Costello. After listening to tracks like "Third Eye", you'll wonder why he hasn't scored a major radio hit yet. Like his aforementioned peers, Barbeau draws heavily from the Beatles' innovation, wrapping a pop song wrapped in a mysterious gauze so that it's as disturbing as it is pretty. Given the nature of the collection, it shouldn't be surprising that not everything here is a winner; however, the abundance of strong material makes you wonder what else he has hidden in his closet.

 

THE ARCHITECTURAL DANCE SOCIETY REVIEWS
by Jeffrey Norman

Note: this review also appeared in Toast.

As the subtitle indicates, this is the second mopping-up compilation for Bay Area by-way-of-Sacramento musical hero Anton Barbeau, available as one of the first releases from fledgling label 125 Records. Barbeau is a seriously talented musician whose audience ought to reside in way more zip codes than its current, largely circumscribed dwelling. His lyrics have the rare gift of being simultaneously witty, bizarre, and moving, which manages the neat trick of disarming both cynical distancing and the tendency to equate humor with unseriousness. Musically, he's a guitar-pop songwriter of the first order, chords and melodies flowing forth effortlessly and tunefully but with just enough unexpected twisting and divagation to keep things interesting ... The Golden Boot is ... far superior to Antology Vol. 1, with several tracks that would have enhanced either A Splendid Tray or its follow-up, last year's 17th Century Fuzzbox Blues.

 

SACRAMENTO NEWS & REVIEW
by Christian Kiefer

...a welcome addition to the Barbeau collection.

 

EAST BAY EXPRESS (Berkeley, CA)
by Sam Hurwitt

...pop genius...Combining a keen ear for Brit popcraft with the best excesses of shaggy-dog surreal songwriterdom...

 

URBANVIEW (Oakland, CA)
by Leigh Saffold

...good sounds are brewing in River City...The Golden Boot...reveals [Barbeau's] talent in balancing influence and ingenuity and the hand of tight production.

 

TOAST
by Andrew Hamlin

Anton sets Monkee catchiness into obscurantist procedure recalling Ted Kaczynski or even the Easter Bunny, but here offers a few egg pairs in the same basket. "Breaky Doll"'s creepy and only slightly contratextualized by thirty-six seconds of "Breaky Dub" but "Little Bleep Bleep" percolates as well at the end, unlisted, with its title phrase out front as it does, listed, with same lost in non-bleepy studio static. Of his "version others" -- of songs on album others, "Third Eye" could be the antimatter-universe twin of A Splendid Tray's incarnation, and "Banana2000"'s electropop reggae-zation intrigues, but only buffs its Tray relation. "Sula2," though, makes me rock back and forth and flash devil horns and renounce all previous "Sula"s as the singer folds a spirituality quilt and forces it through the eleven syllables "SU-la, and the ELE-vat-ed FRE-quen-cy" apropos of male orgasm sensation of your entire being trying to shove itself out one small hole. An apt terrain, since singletons here include "C'Mon Girl" -- a fake bootleg of drunk Beatles in a hotel room and Marvin Gaye in his confessional mode scribbling lyrics; "The Horny Old Ballad Of Tracy Shellac," in which our hero proposes Bevis Frond as makeout music; and "Xmas Song," a seemingly effortless Yulefest celebration which commemorates death, questions faith, chalks up "kissy-face" to "too much 'nog" and doesn't neglect the penguins. Always with the penguins.

 

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