Anton Barbeau – Empire of Potential

January 01, 1970

(Idiot Records)


One adjective that you come across
over and over again reading reviews on Anton’s music, is the word ‘eccentric’
used to describe his songwriting. ‘Quirky,’ also. Perhaps he IS a lot of that;
his shock of white hair is certainly longer and wilder than a few album covers
ago, but I just hear ‘creative’ when I listen to his music. Perhaps relocating
from Northern California to England several years ago has released his innate
Lewis Carroll and Syd Barrett that was dying to emerge, but I only hear madness
in his method and some magic in its execution. Empire of Potential is a
rather cheekily self-described collection of “18 Golden and Completely Obscure Hits” gleaned from 18 of his
albums. His musical styles are a mingling of colorful pop, folkish flavorings,
a sugar cube of psychedelic and a dash of whimsy. Utilizing the Vonnegut-ism, karass, he is a musical kindred soul
with Nick Saloman and the Bevis Frond (who he recorded an album with), Frond
associate Mary Lou Lord and of course, Robyn Hitchcock and the Soft Boys. The
BF and SB comparison’s pop up with every writer, but they’re obvious enough
that you already realize that before you actually read it someplace. Influences
that he names include Julian Cope, the Beatles, Bowie, Neu!, Can and the Loud
Family (he also worked with the latter outfit). Here and there I hear hints of
Elliot Smith, The Minus 5 and Guided By Voices in some songs.


One thing you’ll notice when you
listen to ‘Ant’, is his super-fine vocal quality, a clear tenor with range to
spare. Past accolades from the Sacramento-area SAMMI awards recognized him in
Best Folk Singer, The Best Songwriter of the Year and Best Album of the Year
categories. The songs on Empire cover
a range of styles and tempos and really should be considered ‘golden hits’ out
of his numerous tunes. “Losing You Makes the Crucifixion Easy” kicks off the
album with a rousing rocker of the indie variety, going back to 1993. He always
utilizes an excellent back-up musicians and great studio producers like Scott
Miller (Loud Family) to polish it all up to a sparkling lustre. He’s taken to
Pro Tools to keep up with all of his output, as well as taking advantage of new
acquaintances like Soft Boys guitarist Kimberly Rew to sit in on the occasional
song, as well as fellow-Softies Morris Windsor and Andy Metcalfe. Things get
trippy on both “Fuzzchild” and “The Automatic Door,” which is awash with
wah-wahs, synth keyboards and various paisley-fied effects. You get a taste of
his outing with the Bevis Frond with the cut “Octagon” from their King of Missouri collaboration. He gets
in touch with his inner-Robyn Hitchcock on both “The Banana Song” and “Please
Sir I’ve Got A Wooden Leg” with their rather puzzling and slightly nonsensical
lyrics. Empire is an excellent
introduction to Barbeau and his insightful musical views of life, love and the
world around him. So-called eccentricities aside, you will find his ingenious
music entertaining, vivid and just unconventional enough to delight the most
stolid and snobbish pop fans.


DOWNLOAD: “Losing You Makes Crucifixion Easy,” “Fuzzchild,” “The
Automatic Door.” BARRY ST. VITUS




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