Under Review: Barb – Barb

Is a supergroup still super if their members are barely known in the music world?  Such is the conundrum with Barb, a new project consisting of some of New Zealand’s finest young popsters.  Joining forces for this group are Liam Finn (son of Crowded House’s Neil), Finn’s musical partner Eliza-Jane, Lawrence Arabia (former touring bassist for Okkervil River) and both Connan and Seamus from Connan And The Mockasins.  If none of those names ring a bell, then Barb’s mission is partially complete, as their goal was to present themselves as an entirely new band.  Even more convincing is their full-length, self-titled debut, which packs as much psychedelic power-pop as you’d expect from four band’s worth of players.  Plenty of bands write odes to famous people, but only a group as unusual as Barb could get away with leading their album with “Leo,” indeed a tribute to Leonardo DiCaprioBarb’s songs tend to be far more atmospheric than the previous works of any of its members, making for a thoroughly enjoyable (if not immediately memorable) listen.  Mid-set pieces “Time To Contemplate” and the EJ-led “2004” are patient and dreamy while the call-and-response “Alcoholic Darling” is a peppy standout.

Even Barb’s shortest songs, “Not A Bird” and “Beatman,” make room for woozy experimentation, with the former featuring some particularly spacey studio trickery.  The album concludes with what might be the band’s theme song, “Looking Out Through Barb’s Eyes.”  It’s a leisurely and sunny amble through the peculiarities of everyday life, all set to an unsteady but controlled backbeat.  Barb (the band) is unlikely to be a lasting project for these youngsters, though it’s hardly because Barb is bereft of ideas.  Instead, it’s because Barb hints at so many great musical oddities that the members can easily use this project as an inspirational catalyst for their own individual material.  Down the road, we might remember Barb not as a groundbreaking band who made a genre-defining record, but as the launch pad for some of this generation’s cleverest and most capable songwriters.

~ by E. on August 11, 2010.

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