Little Barrie stay true to their well-established sound on their fifth studio album. A popular fixture of the UK rock ‘n’ roll scene for more than fifteen years, the band recorded ‘Death Express’ in their practice space and produced it themselves. The result is an honest atmosphere and 20 songs that sound live at times, which is in a refreshing contrast to much of the over-engineered music put out nowadays. Anyone who’s seen the band live experienced the energy with which they take over the stage, and this new release is their best effort yet to capture this energy on a recording.
The trio are brilliant at channelling 60s and 70s rock ‘n’ roll while adding a modern twist. Their influences are versatile: their style includes flavours of surf music, psychedelic rock, funk and classic R&B. Many contemporary bands fall in the trap of trying to cram so much into their music that they no longer have a coherent sound, but this is not the case with Little Barrie. Although neither one component of their sound is original in itself, the blend they create is remarkably recognizable.
The record opens with the short psychedelic introduction ‘Rejection’, which gets us in the mood for the quality rock ‘n’ roll that follows. ‘I.5.C.A.’ then sets the bar quite high for the rest of the album. Although the group keep their creativity flowing throughout, most of the highlights are concentrated in the first half.
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‘Copter’ is well-executed musically, with a melodic chorus that might make one feel as if they’ve heard it before. ‘Golden Age’ is a relaxing bluesy tune where Barrie Cadogan’s guitar has a lovely old-school feel to it. In ‘You Won’t Stop Us’ and ‘Vulture Swarm’, Little Barrie give a reason why they’re often referred to as a garage rock band. Embracing the tradition of psychedelic rock, the solos in ‘Count to Ten’, ‘Molotov Cop’ and the instrumental track ‘Bill$ House’ can transport the listener to different mental states. ‘Love or Love’ is one of the most memorable tracks, with powerful drum beats and bass lines.
Towards the end, most songs border on a more traditional blues sound, except for the title track, which has the most “artificially” electronic sound of all. It stands out in a not necessarily positive way, even though it’s doubtlessly very catchy. It’s hard to see why they chose to name the album ‘Death Express’; a possible explanation is that they simply thought it was a cool-sounding title.
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Cadogan has plenty of opportunities to show off his guitar skills without overshadowing his bandmates. Bassist Lewis Wharton and drummer Virgil Howe form an excellent rhythm section and provide a polished foundation for Cadogan’s heavy riffs, while also having the ability to capture the listener’s attention when they it’s their time to be in the spotlight.
Lyrically, nothing deep should be expected. Not a lot of emphasis is placed on the words and there isn’t much to contemplate. But the lyrics are not completely banal either, and it’s obvious that they did put some thought into writing them.
‘Death Express’ is an excellent record with the potential to propel the group into worldwide fame. Little Barrie’s music has already been heard by millions all over the world after they wrote the theme for the ‘Breaking Bad’ spin-off series ‘Better Call Saul’, but it’s never easy to step out from underground into the mainstream.
‘Death Express’ is out now via Non Delux/Cargo. Little Barrie are currently on a UK tour until September.