No one label could ever hope to claim the musical force of nature that is ANTON BARBEAU. For that reason among many others, BIG STIR RECORDS is simply and humbly grateful to bring you ANTON BARBEAU PRÉSENTE: KENNY VS. THRUST, available on CD and download on Friday, January 24 and is available for pre-order at www.BigStirRecords.com/store
Anton Barbeau is said to play "pre-apocalyptic psychedelic pop", but that tag doesn't even begin to touch on the scope of his work. His oeuvre ranges from surreal acoustic balladry to experimental electronica to the mutant neo-cabaret of his most recent album Berliner Grotesk. On KvT, though, Anton rocks. The record takes its name from Ant's current backing bands in the US and UK – Sacramento-based KENNY and Oxford, England's THRUST, known in their own right as CHARMS AGAINST THE EVIL EYE – and is possessed of a loose and live energy that sets it apart from the man's 2019 releases, including Berliner Grotesk, the critically-adored Natural Causes, and Ant's work fronting the French-American supergroup SALT.
The songs are drawn from Barbeau's songbook spanning from his teen years to the present day, but the all-new performances are fresh and immediate, and the bi-continental production is a cohesive and bracing dive into the essence of Antmusik across time. And just who is Anton? He's a Taurus, born in Sacramento and now living by a canal in Berlin. He's made something like 30 albums and has worked with members of XTC, The Soft Boys, The Bevis Frond, Cake, and The Corner Laughers (his label-mates first on Mystery Lawn and now on BSR). He draws frequent comparisons to the likes of Syd Barrett, Julian Cope, and Robyn Hitchcock (whose erstwhile Egyptians bandmates Morris Windsor and Andy Metcalfe constituted the other two thirds of Ant's band Three Minute Tease). He split the singing and songwriter duties with the legendary Scott Miller on The Loud Family's What If It Works? LP. Anton breathes rarefied air indeed.
As with many of those influences and peers, there's a special magic when a musical polymath like Anton steps in front of a sympatico live band and lets the chemistry take over. On Kenny Vs. Thrust, Barbeau has two such bands: the titular Kenny (Kevin Allison: guitar, Tom Monson: drums, and Jeff Simons: bass) and Thrust (Matt Sewell: guitar, Jules Moss: bass, and Richard Nash: drums). Anton adroitly mixes and matches his tunes to each combo's considerable strength.: Thus it's Thrust powering through the two-guitar sludge attack of the opener “Wire From The Wall” (sounding not unlike, well, Wire), the rhythmically trippy pysch of “Popsong 99” and the delightfully titled “Beautiful Bacon Dream”, and the Hitchcock-indebted and -referencing “Haunted in Fenland”. “Mahjong Dijon” with its acoustic-and-electric-12-string swagger rounds out the contributions from the moonlighting Charms Against The Evil Eye lads (from whom we hope to hear more under their own name this year).
Across the pond in California, it's Kenny backing Ant on the bracing meta-catchy “Land of Economy” (replete with serpentine fuzz-guitar lines from Barbeau himself), the stately “Burning Burning”, and the country-tinged “Clean Clothes In A Dirty Bag” (on which Corner Laugher Karla Kane gets “the last word”) – all of which Anton classes as his most political of tunes and are adorned with the requisite intensity any good protest deserves. Amazingly, they also sound imminently at home on the sweetly synth-laden “Back To Balmain” and the dub workout “Tidy Up Yourself”. And there's room along the way for the Ant-only “Jingle Jangle”, which serves as both a takedown and prime example of the genre its title would lead one to expect.
“There’s something beautifully balanced between the style and sound of each band. Of course, there’s me gluing it all together with too many synths,” says Anton. And it hangs together wonderfully, united by the singular lyrical whimsy for which Barbeau is known. Ever chasing one quixotic muse or another, Anton's busily preparing his next record, a concept piece known as Manbird that promises another journey across his own musical astral plane. Meanwhile, Kenny Vs. Thrust is destined to be the most car-stereo-crankable disc of Anton's – or perhaps anyone's – year, and we are thrilled to bring it to you.
released January 24, 2020