Anton Barbeau is a very 21st century troubadour. Dividing his time between his native Sacramento, Berlin and the UK, he’s produced a huge body of work as a solo artist, producer and very briefly as a member of Scott Miller’s masterful pop-rock band The Loud Family. This EP sees him working with Fruits de Mer Records – a great fit as FdM specialise in psychedelia, space rock, acid folk and krautrock. Barbeau ticks all those boxes.
Three of the four songs on the “Heaven is in Your Mind” EP are covers. If you’re looking for slavishly note for note recreations, then look away now. Barbeau has taken the bits of the songs he likes, grafted them on to bits that really have no business being there and has punted them out to a bemused but appreciative audience. The title track sounded pretty far out when it was first released by Traffic in 1967. Fifty year later, Barbeau cranks out his drum machine and some analog synths and makes it weirder still. What’s the point in making a pale facsimile of something when you can have a little fun with it, right? His own “Secretion of the Wafer” is typical Barbeau – all elliptical melodies and playful lyrics. It’s psychedelic, but its “See Emily Play” psychedelic rather than the “fifty-minute guitar freakout” psychedelic -although Barbeau would probably make a good job of that, too.
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Bowie’s “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) gets off pretty lightly – maybe because the original is pretty close to Barbeau’s own brand of nicely deranged pop. The most contentious tune is the version of “September Gurls” which opens up side two of this vinyl only release. Most versions of this – the powerpop “Johnny B. Goode” – are almost evangelical in their reverence to the original. Barbeau however, replaces Alex Chilton’s chiming Stratocaster guitar intro with a synth sound that sounds a lot like a musical doorbell. For the middle eight, he switches from the not-quite-falsetto that he’s being using in the verses, to an off-kilter croon and the guitar solo is forced through a variety of peculiar and unsuitable signal processors. It’s great. He may receive death threats from Cuban-heeled Big Star diehards, but it’s nice to hear a different spin put on it.
This isn’t the best way into the brightly coloured and twisty world of Anton Barbeau – his “Magic Act” record, or the two albums he made with Three Minute Tease will ease you into his repertoire in a gentler fashion. This is Barbeau at his most playful and it’s a joy to behold.
“Heaven is in Your Mind” is available now via Fruits de Mer