24 August 2017
Little Barrie - Death Express
This review is so overdue, so I will get on with it straight away. Little Barrie have been bouncing around the underground for fifteen years, they have been slowly making a name for themselves. They were the backing band for Paul Weller on his 22 Dreams album, they have supported the likes of Brian Jones Town Massacre, Primal Scream, The Stone Roses and many more. Recently, their music (which forms the bases of this album) has been used for the TV show Better Call Saul, the spin-off of the hit TV Breaking Bad. This has thrown them even further into the limelight, giving them more exposure and now they have released their fifth album Death Express. They are shortly about to head out on the road in the UK to support this album, but how do the album sound? Well, lets find out.....
01 - Rejection
This is a twenty-five second introduction track, if you blink than you would miss it. So, onwards to the first proper track.
02 - I.5.C.A. (Tommy Forrest Mix)
When I first heard this song, I thought I had already heard it before. It sounds like it could have been used in an advert for an American light beer or a detective show when everyone is in slow-mo, moody poses and looking like skeletons to the real world. It is very stylistic, a little bit hipster to be honest, but not in a bad way.
03 - Copter
This song is so stylistic, so vogue and hip that it could get into any club without a velvet rope blocking its way. It is a good number, not my usual cup of tea but it is not offensive either. It is still something that feels as if it is designed for the big screen or an advert that has nothing to do with the subject matter at hand, it is a cool little song.
04 - Golden Age
We are only four tracks into this album and I am already wondering if this album has a sequel, the music on "Golden Age" just lends itself perfectly to the cellular world. I love this one, it has spy drama wrote all over it and it oozes style once more.
05 - New Disease
"New Disease" is following the same formula as the first four songs on this album, it is fashionable and it makes all the right noises. But the pace is beginning to wear a little thin here and there is still fourteen songs to go, I think this one could have been placed in the bargain bin.
06 - You Won't Stop Us
As if reading my mind, the band pick up pace on "Yon Won't Stop Us" as it finally picks up the pace, but it does not sacrifice the overall tone of the band by doing so. It is a funky number, very psychedelic and you will either love it or hate it. Personally, I like it and this is despite myself as I usually do not like this sort of thing. But this one is working for me, much to my own surprise.
07 - Count to Ten
For an album that does not have a lot of pace, it does not take much to stop the flow of the record in its tracks. "Count to Ten" halts the record with a bang and it feels as if I have heard this all before on this record all ready. The fade out ending jars everything as it was just starting to gain some sort of pace and the guitars felt like it was heading in something that resembled a direction. Frustrating.
08 - Love or Love
There is something so familiar with this band, especially with this song as well. It just feels like it is designed for a by gone era and I am watching it from the future. It is a good number, one that will have a lot of people dancing when they hear it, but I feel a little cold whenever I listen to it.
09 - (Nothing Will) Eliminate (Edit)
This song has been editing down to three minutes, twenty-six seconds. When I am listening to it, it is one of the few songs on the album which I would have like to have seen extended to a flat-out jam session version. It feels like Dinosaur Jr. have been asked to turn the distortion down and they are jamming with Can. This could have been a world beater, it is really a shame it has been edited.
10 - The Dodge
An instrumental song that is just under a minute in length and it is also a song that could have easily been drawn out into another jam. I think they need to let it go (no, not in a Frozen style) and see where the song takes them. If this was part of a song edited for a TV show, that would be fine. But I feel like I am missing another six or seven minutes worth of music here.
11 - Bill$ House
Another instrumental track from Little Barrie here, once again it has a cinematic feeling and it feels lost without a reference point to me. It is simple enough and a good piece, but you feel like you have come in halfway through a jamming session which has a lot more music before and after the event.
12 - Molotov Cop
Now we are back, the band have stopped the instrumentals and it feels like they have been unleashed from a lead that has been keeping them in check. There is a wild and fierce feeling to the song as it gains momentum, it has an edge which has not been so apparent so far on this album. It is the perfect example of Little Barrie at their best, they sound on fire on this song and it is a brilliant number.
13 - Vulture Swarm
We find Little Barrie in moody form on "Vulture Swarm", it is full of strange sounds, bizarre noises and a frantic display on the drum kit as the band add a slice of psychedelic mystery to the album. This is another side of the band I wish they would explore, it is really interesting and I reckon a live jam where they are going nuts on this would be fantastic.
14 - Produkt
There is a heavy tone to the bass on this song, a strange rumbling that gives this song an edge on this album, it is part of a brilliant trilogy of number that showcase the best parts of this band. "Produkt" is a song that improves with each spin, it gains depth with each listen and that is a rare beast on this album. I wish this was the norm on the album, this is the sound of a band that I could get interested in.
15 - Compressed Fun
This song is another one that feels like it could have been extended, allowed to flow whichever way it desired and turned into a jam of infinite length. But it ends up beings stunted and ends as it starts to gain my interest, which is a shame as it has one of the best riffs on the album.
16 - Ultraviolet Blues
I am listening to this song with a mixture of awe and frustration; it is brilliant, but why did it take so long to get to the point of the song, the rub if you will. The song sounds like a messed up version of The Charlatans, mixed with a 60's explosion of psychedelic rock and noise. As it progresses, you can hear the band start to hit a groove and then it abruptly ends. That is not what this band should be about, but that is the current state of things.
17 - Sonic Lodge
Another short interlude, over and done in thirty seconds and it could have been used for a short scene in a TV show. It feels wasted on here sadly, so it is onwards and upwards.
18 - Death Express
The title track of this album is also the longest one as well, it is allowed to grow and to evolve into something more than a tight single format that has hampered a lot of this album. It does not feel as if it is five minutes long and it too feels like it could have gone further as well. I really like this song, but once again, it could been so much more (which seems to be the story of this album).
19 - Shoulders Up, Eyes Down
We finally reach the ending of this record with "Shoulders Up, Eyes Down", which goes back to the earlier style of the album. It is too short for its own good, it takes a while to reach its pinnacle and it is over before it starts to gain momentum. It feels like an apt ending for the album, but not one that I think the band was Little Barrie's original intention.
I do not think I have heard an album so stylistically focused in such a long time, it is just so concentrated and moody that it makes me feel scruffy and in need of a trip to my tailors just to listen to it. It reminds me a lot of the Eels, Bran Van 3,000 and Cake, that Alternative Rock of the 90's that seemed to come out of America and rule the airwaves. There is also an Ocean's Eleven feeling to the music as well, as if this was produced by David Holmes himself. I like the sound; the production is crisp and they sound tight as a nut. There are a few slight issues with the album though. Firstly, there is the length of the album - it is nineteen tracks long, there is a few of these that could have been cut off all together, or they could have been released as a new EP. The time length is not an issue though, as I love long songs. What is the problem is the constant changing in directions, the painfully short, bite size, easy pickings length of the songs that damages any fluidity that the songs could have obtained. Because of this, there is a feeling of over consummation to the album, a feeling of gluttony by default and it gives it a bloated afterglow. The second half of the album is much better than the beginning, but by that point it is all over in some ways. It is sadly a case of too much deadwood and wasted opportunities on this record. Also, the band need to let the songs flow and not just focus on the three to four-minute mark. They could have created a better album with eight songs, than a good album (almost average) with nineteen, which is a shame as they sound great and it is could have easily been so much more. However, at the end of the day, this is a film soundtrack in the waiting and I think if these guys and Edgar Wright or Quentin Taranto ever get together to make a soundtrack, they will make cellular history. I really like their sound and I would love to be able to listen to them in the rehearsal studio when they are working on a number, I just wish they could relax a little and kick out the jams MF'ers!
6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but it is not quite there.
Top track - Molotov Cop
You can purchase Death Express on Amazon here.
You can visit the Little Barrie website here.
You can follow the activities of Little Barrie on Facebook here.
You can stream Death Express on Spotify here.
You can stream Death Express on Deezer here.
You can stream Death Express in Tidal here.
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