Tag Archives: Anton Barbeau

Paying Tribute: Men In Plaid

Someone tagged a comment on an old post of mine chastising me for mentioning that Kyle Vincent sang lead forThe Bay City Rollers – insisting that there were only two lead singers and he wasn’t one of them. After correcting my non-fan (and posting a video link to prove my point) I was reminded of how back in their day, fans of The Rollers were constantly scorned but very resilient. Nothing has changed.

I was not a fan of the band at the time; for I (1) was not a teenager anymore, (2) wasn’t female (still not one) and (3) thought Tartan plaid looked bad enough on Rod Stewart, who at least had the songwriting and performance chops to overcome the ridiculous look. (Then again, I didn’t expect his brilliant early 70s run to be followed up by thirty-five years of underwhelming records. But I digress…)

As you might know, I have a weakness for tribute albums. For every gem there are ten clunkers, although there are usually one or two tracks worth excising and preserving. If you want to do it right, you need access to a group of good bands, a smart label, a certain sense of levity and material that is at least recognizable if not worthwhile. One rule of thumb is that great bands can often overcome lackluster material. Case in point – Men In Plaid. Bullseye Records, a Canadian pop label, had previously succeeded with a Klaatu tribute and did another nice job on this Rollers collection. Of course, having first-rate pop artists like The Flashcubes, Anton Barbeau and The Squires of the Subterrain doesn’t hurt, either.

I’m trying to get away from the concept of guilty pleasures, which infers a level of secrecy and/or embarrassment. Either you like something or you don’t, and if you don’t have the courage of your convictions for some things, then your opinion on anything else is worthless. I didn’t like the band much in their heyday and I wouldn’t have worn those asinine plaid clamdiggers at gunpoint. But is “Saturday Night” a great pop song? Hell yes, it is.

My original review ran in Comsumable Online ten years ago. Looks like an extended version of the CD came out a few years later.

Bullseye follows up last year’s excellent Klaatu tribute with another winner, once again featuring a Who’s Who of Contemporary Pop Bands. Rollermaniacs, having seen their heroes suffer the torture of VH-1’s Behind The Music, can now revel in a newly issued Greatest Hits collection and this enthusiastic homage. But even if you hated the Rollers – and I just know many of you did – you’ll be surprised at how many great songs are buried beneath the plaid exterior. Maybe “S-S-S-Saturday Night” doesn’t carry the same cultural weight as “My G-G-G-Generation” to you, but for millions of fans across the world, The Bay City Rollers were their Beatles.

To say that The Flashcubes launch this record like a rocket would be an understatement; Paul Armstrong and Arty Lenin rip into “Wouldn’t You Like It” like Keith Richards and Mick Taylor circa “Brown Sugar”. Although no one else blows the roof off quite like that opening track, there are several other solid contributions. Gary “Pig” Gold sounds like he’s been a closet Grip Weed for years; this “Rock And Roll Love Letter” can stand proudly alongside The Records’ version. There are two versions of “Saturday Night”; Anton Barbeau adds his trademark left-of-the-dial approach while The Dipsomaniacs attack the song with a fever pitch. Tom Davis and Jeremy handle the mellower cuts equally well, while the appropriately named Squires Of The Subterrain dial in from the basement.

Other highlights include Ed James’ one-man-band take on “You Make Me Believe In Magic”; this performance will have people running to the store for his record. And both Reptopia and Fudge chose to take some liberties with the bubblegum pop songs, and their arrangements result in two of the standout cuts. Of course, not every cut bears repeated listening – for me, The Bobbies‘ version of “Let’s Go” was devoid of energy – but beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

Men In Plaid features a solid collection of bands who treat the songs with some reverence, but also have a lot of fun with them. That’s the way music used to be in the Rollers days. Some of these bands are old enough to remember, but the others probably had to be told. And the little girls still understand.

The Original Wardrobe Malfunction

2 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews

Independent Label Woes

Here's the church...where are the people?

Certainly stories like this are not new, nor surprising, but they are sad nonetheless. It has become an incredibly difficult exercise to maintain a small independent label that handles several artists, although many have been fighting through the struggle because they are passionate music people at heart, not pencil pushers. 

Thanks to rampant distribution issues, viral bootlegging, the shrinking brick-and-mortar model and the collapse of the economy in general, it’s no wonder that people eventually have to fly the white flag. Or in this case, a pink one. 

For over fifteen years, Simon Felton has graced us with his Pink Hedgehog label featuring an eclectic roster of artists (including himself). But in 2010 he has come to a crossroads and has determined that the physical CD side of his business needs to shut down so he can survive as a digital label. I’ve never met Simon in person, but having dealt with him peripherally over the years I can assure you that he is a person who wants to do the best for his artists and his customers. In typical fashion, rather than blame everyone else, he feels guilty that he didn’t sell more CDs – though these matters are far beyond his control. 

I could prattle on, but I’d rather share Simon’s email with you. At the bottom of his letter is a list of titles he has in stock which he is selling for two dollars (or one pound) each to clear them out and hopefully seed the work of these artists to those who might be willing to take a chance on someone for what amounts to less money than Starbucks will charge you for coffee. So please visit the Pink Hedgehog Closing Down Sale and pick up a CD or two or three. (There are some MP3s on the Pink Hedgehog website; most of the artists should have some on their own web/MySpace/Facebook sites as well.) 

And now, here’s Simon… 

 

hello to all the friends and supporters of pink hedgehog records, 

i hope everyone is doing well, both personally and creatively… when you have a moment, please have a read through this message as it concerns the future of my little label and the steps i am taking in order to ensure its survival.  i am sure you are all aware, its incredibly hard to sell cds these days – its always been difficult of course, but now it’s almost impossible… at least that’s been my experience (i’ve never been very good at the business side of things!).  my recent stock take/accounting for my dreaded tax return has made me face up to the reality of the situation – the fact is i can’t continue with things as they stand.  here at my house i have 6088 cds as unsold stock, and together with cds in our distributors warehouse (a further 1408), we’re looking at over 7500 cds that are sat around in boxes or gathering dust here at sunnyside road.  i feel partly responsible, like i have let the artists down to some extent by not being able to sell more, but i have done my best and put all my available energy and resources into it.  the label only managed to sell a total of 375 cds in the last year… bearing in mind that’s a combined total of all artists/releases for the whole label, it’s not particularly good!  i know i should be pleased to have sold that many (and i do appreciate each and every one) but given that each new release adds (up to) another 1000 cds to the stockpile, you can see that it just doesn’t add up and no longer makes sense. 

the upshot is, there will be no more physical releases… aside from a couple of new albums that are already in production, the physical/cd side of the label will finish.   this is partly due to the costs involved in manufacturing/postage/couriers/mcps etc., but also because i don’t have any more room to put cds in my house!  i know i often joke about the floorboards in my attic buckling under the weight, but it’s not far off the truth.  i’m not a fan of downloading and if i had my way all our releases would be issued on both cd and vinyl, but it’s just not possible – the only way i can see a future for the label and a way to release new music is to accept the changing market and adapt… it’s a shame, but i’ve exhausted all other options.  even the independent distributors in the uk are now only willing to take releases if its backed up with a decent promotion/marketing budget (around £1500 i’m told for a basic package) or guaranteed high profile radio/glossy interest.  much of the stock held by our main uk/european distributor has been (or will be) returned to me in the near future.  the chains/stores (like HMV) that used to list our releases and make them available to order online will apparently only continue to list those which sell a minimum number of copies through that site per month – this will result in the majority of the back catalogue no longer being visible. 

i am hoping this will encourage people to turn to the true independent distributors and retailers and give much needed business for the people that deserve it the most.  with this in mind i am having a final closing down sale in an effort to clear some of the stock and keep the releases available through the underground/alternative network that inspired me to start the label in the first place.  i appreciate this email is far longer than it needed to be and i don’t want it to be interpreted as a loss of enthusiasm or motivation… i’m still as committed as ever; i’m doing what i can to preserve the label and make sure it has a future – i believe the music we put out is superb, but these days it doesn’t seem to mean a great deal in terms of sales.  i hope most of this makes sense and i would certainly appreciate your comments, suggestions and feedback… just in case there are things i haven’t considered.  in the meantime, enjoy your weekend and please PLEASE please consider buying some of our wonderful jewel-cased gems that need to be enjoyed and treasured! 

given that i am selling all the releases at around cost (or sometimes less than cost) prices, i will need to add postage to the order, but only what the post office charge me… i may  be be able to make some allowances for larger orders if it means getting the music out there and reaching people. 

thanks for sticking with me, please do get in touch with any questions, take care, simon. 

ALL OF THESE CDS ARE JUST ONE POUND (£1.00) EACH or TWO DOLLARS ($2.00) if you prefer! 

Anton Barbeau “Waterbugs & Beetles” 2005 CD (10th anniversary edition, new artwork) 100+ IN STOCK 

Anton Barbeau “Drug Free” 2006 CD (4 Star **** review in Sunday Times) 100+ IN STOCK 

Anton Barbeau “Plastic Guitar” 2009 CD (Anton’s 13th and latest album) 100+ IN STOCK 

The Bitter Little Cider Apples “Still” 2002 CD (Debut from legendary Dorset garage band) 100+ IN STOCK 

The Black Watch “The Innercity Garden EP” 2005 CD (Feat. exclusive tracks) 85 IN STOCK 

The Black Watch “The Hypnotizing Sea” 2005 CD (Intelligent Californian pop) 100+ IN STOCK 

Cheese “Enlarge Your Johnson” 2005 CD (Sophisticated power pop sequel) 60 IN STOCK 

Simon Felton “Symmetry” 2008 CD-R (Electronic pop tunes and ballads) 10 IN STOCK 

Simon Felton “Failing In Biology” 2009 CD (Proper debut) 100+ IN STOCK 

Freak Circus “Freak Shall Inherit The Earth” 2007 CD (Punk pop debut) 100+ IN STOCK 

Garfields Birthday “Mr Newton EP” 2005 CD (Dandyland Records, 5 trks) 100+ IN STOCK 

Garfields Birthday “Let Them Eat Cake” 2008 CD (Indie/power pop) 100+ IN STOCK 

Hamfatter “Girls In Graz” 2006 CD (Deleted album, feat. the no.3 Austrian hit) 100+ IN STOCK 

Hamfatter “Sziget (We Get Wrecked)” 2007 CD (Deleted UK chart single, 2 trks) 100+ IN STOCK 

Hamfatter “What Part Of Hamfatter Do You Not Understand?” 2007 CD (Deleted/original digipak version) 100+ IN STOCK 

Hamfatter “Do Something Stupid Tonight” 2008 CD (Unreleased, 4 trk EP) 60 IN STOCK 

The Inexperienced “The Inexperienced” 2010 CD (Superb Electrasy-related debut) 62 IN STOCK 

Peter Lacey “Thru A Glass Brightly” CD 2001 (Beach Boys inspired pop) 67 IN STOCK 

Peter Lacey “Anderida” CD 2003 (More Brian Wilson/Beach Boys harmonies!) 100+ IN STOCK 

Peter lacey “Songs From A Loft” CD 2005 (Peter’s 3rd album of chamber pop) 100+ IN STOCK 

Peter Lacey “Permanent Wave” 2006 Limited CD-R (In plastic wallet) 17 IN STOCK 

Mondo Jet Set “Girl Action” 2009 Limited Vinyl Replica CD-R (Stunning new album) 5 IN STOCK 

Schnauser “Kill All Humans” 2006 CD-R(Psych-pop, handmade/numbered in plastic wallet) 4 IN STOCK 

Steve Wilson “Steppin’ It Up A Notch” 2002 CD (Dylan/Randy Newman style pop debut) 53 IN STOCK 

Steve Wilson “Sideshows And Fairytales” 2007 CD (2nd album of heartfelt pop) 30 IN STOCK 

Various Artists “Pink Hedgehog Incident” 1996 CD (Early Weymouth band comp.) 50 IN STOCK 

Various Artists “Ear Candy” 1999 CD (16 trk comp. with Cheese/Garfields/Lucky Bishops) 45 IN STOCK 

 

Pink Hedgehog website 

Pink Hedgehog on MySpace

2 Comments

Filed under Editorials, Music, Reviews

Under The Radar: Anton Barbeau

Is it really possible to be a cult superstar?

When I say “under the radar” about Anton Barbeau, I don’t mean to slight him by insinuating that he’s unknown. The Sacramento based artist has enjoyed a long career splitting his time between the US and Europe, much to the delight of a loyal and growing audience of fans. But mainstream he’s not, so I implore you to dip your toe in the River Barbeau and check him out.

(He’s amazing, and he would never resort to a cheesy rhyme like that.)

What first knocked me out was his second album, Waterbugs and Beetles. It’s an odd phrase for an album name until you compare it to song titles like “Beautiful Bacon Dream” and “Slimy Cello Piece”. But behind that strange choice of words is a master song craftsman who is creative, versatile and anything but ordinary. Anton continues to record and release new albums, and I continue to enjoy them – but this one holds a special place for me.

Here’s my original review of Waterbugs and Beetles for Amplifier Magazine. (Note – this was a review of the original 1995 album; it was re-released in 2006 on Pink Hedgehog).

“Allyson 23” kicks off the record with a lurch–voice, guitar and drums all start together as if you dropped the needle in the middle of the record. And you might as well, because Anton’s Wild Ride will take you on a roller-coaster through his head, turning and twisting at the most unexpected moments while you know that at any given moment, anything can happen. And it does!

Anton (or “AntBar”, as he is affectionately known) will at times remind you of Robyn Hitchcock, XTC, The Loud Family and other less conventional artists because he, like them, has a vision that’s anything but “cookie cutter” music. His voice can be a sad whimper (the beautiful “Untitled But Sad”) or a tool of conviction (“I Want You Not Around”) and everything in between. Musically he uses a crack band augmented by cello, flute, percussion and sometimes even sound effects to get his point across.

Subject Matter? Nothing is sacred. AntBar’s world is a raw nerve of rejection, acceptance, happiness, fear, pain, love and thousands of other impulses that throb in his songs. That means that along with your moments of poetic imagery (“…your sand, oceanless and dry”) you’ll observe girls peeing or share fifty seconds with “Vomit Song”. But Anton tempers this diverse no-holds-barred approach with wit and a lifetime’s worth of musical influence; the result is rich and rewarding.

There are several strong tunes that simply demand to be heard. “MTV Song” (every musician’s nightmare) and the hilarious “Tad Song” (which skewers a Sacramento music writer) are certainly upbeat and punchy enough, and the Crowded House Aussie-Brit-funk of “Bible Beater” is a real treat. “A Proper Cup Of Tea”, led by ringing guitar, would delight any Paul Kelly fan. Slower, haunting tunes like “Jelly” and especially the hypnotic “Come To Me (Made Of Metal)” are pure delight.

With nineteen songs, expect to go off the tracks a few times. Anton sometimes bridges the gap with tape loops or answering machine messages as short “songs”. I would have been much happier without “Complicated Umbrella Piece” or “Long John”, thank you, and could have easily put together a ten or eleven song record without losing a beat. But it’s his muse, and a small price to pay to be able to hear the gems within.

I want to hear more from Anton, even if I have to weed through the idiosyncrasies to get to the true keepers. So what if the batting average isn’t 1.000–the extra base hits are worth the trade off. This is true adventure pop. Invest the time in AntBar’s wonderful world and be rewarded.

Order albums from Anton’s website

“The MTV Song” live in 2004

1 Comment

Filed under Music, Reviews