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Published: 2005/06/02

We are Little Barrie – Little Barrie

Artemis Records

Little Barrie, in this particular moment in time, is quite possibly the best kept secret in Rock and Roll. Much of that can be easily attributed to the fact that the Glastonbury quartet has only played one American gig, in a small bar in the East Village populated (mostly) by industry nightcrawlers too concerned with the cut of their own jeans to notice that they were hearing a great band. More significantly, the band's recent release, the aptly named We are Little Barrie — as appropriate to the talent it announces as to their stripped-down approach — is their debut album.

Yes, at first glance, and second, and third, for that matter, Little Barrie might just be the next big thing. Taking the Beatles (at their most prurient and aggravating) into vicious funk that would make James Brown jump back and kiss himself, built around a frontman whose shouting, sneering, rough hewn British vocals come eerily conjure up Lennon on "I am the Walrus," and whose paired-down effects-free guitar playing emerges from the stew in all the right moments, there's, well, more than a few appealing entry points. As for the critics, the band's organic minimalism should do the trick well enough, compounded by the remarkable self-assurance with which they play and their ability to manipulate the speed and intensity of their funk from laid back, libidinous pimp swagger to voltaic pressure-cooker grooves, all the while maintaining a deceptively unfastened carelessness about their sound that retains the basement quality aesthetic of its production (manned, as it happens, by Edwyn Collins, progenitor of Glasgow neo-pop cult favorite Orange Juice).

On one side of the spectrum, "Burned Out" finds Lewis Wharton's loping, slackened basslines forming the root of a swaggering pornographic groove decorated by Barrie Cadogan's cheeky blues riffs, while exuberant harmonies peer out through ambivalent splashes of open hi-hat. Cordogan's playing, veiled in it's twenty dollar amp simplicity, borrowing as easily from the brash directness of bluesmen like Elmore James as from the pinpoint emotive precision of countrymen like Steve Winwood who idolized them. It serves as the catalyst for the trio's ability to ramp up deceptively laid back funk by increasing the detail and stratification of it's sound. Wayne Fullwood's brash, heavily syncopated percussion, does as much in that regard.

"Well and Truly Done" finds Fullwood channeling the busy Dolemite funk of Clive Stubblefield as the band works up a derivation of James Brown's "Superbad" groove into the album's most volatile, no-nonsense track, anchored by Cadogan's off-beat injection of shuddering, anvil-heavy "Voodoo Chile" guitar pulses. Tearing apart the buoyant ethos of the previous numbers, the track manages to reveal a carnal aggression at the core of the band's minimalism. The following "Stone's Reprise" takes that anger and evaporates it into stygian, ambient atmosphere before bursting back into sauntering optimism with "Stone's Throw", paving a wide berth for Fullwood's crack at lead vocals.

"Long Hair," for it's own part, channels the band's abandon in an alternate fashion, aggravating Cadogan's layered acoustic and electric work into ecstatic chorus breaks.

Despite the fact the fact that lyrically the album often veers dangerously towards the realm of non-sensicality, Cadogan advertises himself as a clever songwriter, founded in the ethos of less is more and in the appreciation of a good solid groove. Resultantly, the trio has delivered a versatile and authentic debut, advocating as much verve as it does a host of interesting possibilities, among them a collaboration with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Dirty Little Barrie perhaps?

Is this thing on?

But seriously folks…...

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