Anton Barbeau & Three Minute Tease – Three Minute Tease

January 01, 1970



Anton Barbeau is one of the world’s great underappreciated songwriters.
He is incapable, it seems, of going three minutes without an indelible hook,
tossing off ear-wormy tunes with the profligacy of a Davies or, possibly, a
Barrett.  He sinks these hooks deep into fuzzy
piles of psychedelic overload, embellishes them with Magritte-ish verbal
absurdities and blares them hard and sweet out of Nuggets-era guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. And, year after
year, the world at large fails to notice.  


Not that Barbeau doesn’t have his admirers. Nick Salomon (of similarly
trippy melodic Bevis Frond) has been a co-conspirator since the early ‘00s,
joining with Barbeau on 2003’s excellent King
of Missouri
and turning up here, nearly a decade later, on lead guitar for
opening track “Love Is Onion.” And never mind that Barbeau works the same
cozily bizarre corners of pop as Robyn Hitchcock, he has also commandeered the
man’s band: Three Minute Tease (the
band, not the album) is made up of Barbeau and ex-Soft Boys Andy Metcalf and
Morris Windsor.


The result is one of Barbeau’s best albums ever, a diverse collection
of soft ballads and hard rockers, melancholic wistfulness and exuberant pop,
all framed in the sweet, swirling idiom of mid-1960s garage psych. “Love Is
Onion” is the first and maybe the strongest song on the disc, entering in on a
strange, scrape-y, possibly 13th Floor Elevators-inspired
percussion, raising the stakes with chiming, sweeping guitar chords, and
sealing the deal with an exultant updrafting melody and climaxing in an
unmistakably Frond-ish guitar solo. Love the song?  Want to hear it again?  There’s a no-vocals dub version tucked in at
the end.


Barbeau is at an age when nostalgia comes into play, never more
beautifully than on the slow, wistful “MLKO II.” The track is named, Barbeau
explains, after a misheard lyric from Hot Chocolate; he always thought they
were singing, “I believe in MLKO…you sexy thing.”  “These Alien Angels” with its human boom box
percussion and lingering piano chords, is another down-tempo winner.


Yet the best songs are upbeat, dressing vexing existential questions in
a silly suit. “Thanks for Lifting My Leg” puts a giddiness under its home-made
cosmology (“Beneath the robe, a naked girl/beneath the girl there lies the
surface of the world/beneath the world another world/and under the robe you’ll
find another naked girl”), guitars rushing off in all directions in antic glee.
 “My Potato” considers the intersection
of god, love, memory and gardening, slipping a wink, though a serious wink, in
the observation, “If god is love, then love is the goddest of all.”


Throughout the music is sharply, joyfully played and studded, as
mentioned earlier, with unshakeable melodic hooks. These are songs that you’ll
find yourself humming under your breath long before you’ve found out what they
mean – and long after you’ve stopped trying to figure them out.


DOWNLOAD: “Love Is Onion,”

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