BARBARAS – The Barbaras 2006-2008

January 01, 1970



The Barbaras, out of Memphis, made goofy, rough-edged, addictively
tuneful garage pop. They performed with props and costumes, putting on
elaborate shows for scanty punk crowds. A fixture in the Memphis scene of the late aughts, their
recorded output was, up until now, a 7″ single put out by Goner in 2010. The
a-side, “Summertime Road,” got a fair amount of blog love, its bleary good cheer
nearly drowned in distortion and bottom-of-a-deep-well sonics.  


The Barbaras’ full-length is altogether cleaner
and more pop, the group’s giddy psychedelic side and penchant for melody
brought out by clearer production. It was produced, as it happens, by Jay
Reatard, and at about the same time that Reatard was, himself, turning towards
tunefulness with Watch Me Fall.


Barbaras album was originally slated for release on In the Red in 2010, but
very nearly never got released at all. The band was closely aligned with Jay
Reatard – they opened for him and two members (Stephen Pope and Billy Hayes)
were in his band. Reatard was producing the album – and had the master tapes
and files – when Pope and Hayes quit his band mid-tour in October 2009. Bad
feelings flowed and Reatard threatened to destroy the tapes. A few months later
he died, and everyone assumed that the Barbaras sessions were lost forever. But
then Alicia Trout found the files on Reatard’s hard drive and the project was


The Barbaras have mostly moved on – three of
them are in the Magic Kids, others have moved out of Memphis – but their lone full-length album
makes you wish that they had continued. It’s poised somewhere between the
straight-up, one-two punk of bands like Tyvek and the languid pop of Real
Estate.  “Flow,” which first appeared on
the “Summertime Road” single, here expands into psychedelia, lush vocal
harmonies draped over its twitchy, tetchy rhythm.  “Super Ball” bounces between silly exuberance
and romantic longing. Reatard was fascinated, during the last years of his
life, with New Zealand
lo-fi pop, and it’s easy to see how that might have slipped into the Barbaras’
toolbox as well. “Topsy Turvy Magic” reflects Kinks-ish musical hall through
the Clean’s fuzz-crusted mirror, even adding some Wilson-esque vocal flourishes
on top. Yet however elaborate the arrangements can get, there’s a disarming,
punk-style enthusiasm behind them. 


Let’s not kid ourselves. If The Barbaras 2006 – 2008 had never
gotten out, not much in music or life or art would have changed.  But these songs go down like melted ice cream
on a warm day, and you’ve hardly finished one when another one charms its way
into view.  They’re fun, they’re easy to
love, and they’re here. Isn’t that enough to celebrate? 


DOWNLOAD: “The Flow,” “Topsy

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