The kindredness of this group to their previous work with Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians and The Soft Boys will be immediately apparent but so will nods to Steve Kilby, Bauhaus, and others in what some clever crit called 'pre-apocalyptic psychedelic pop'. The platinum lion-maned Anton Barbeau, looking like an even more raggedy Dave Stewart (Eurhythmics), wrote all the songs and is most definitely the kind of pop composer I favor even over talents like Jools Holland, Dwight Twilley, and similar spirits, as Barbeau possesses a sense of humor, an odd lightness even when heavy, and then a rich incisiveness very difficult to resist…and, yes, the overused and oft savaged term 'psychedelic' most definitely applies here, as Drinking Horn more than demonstrates. Doesn't hurt, either, that The Bevis Frond's Nick Saloman sits in on Tell Me. And all of that's before the Bowie influences creep in.
I'm not sure if a number of the songs' odd instrumental balances and recessed mixing of voice are by design or of indiscrete choices on the part of the engineers (Pat Collier and others) and so must stand a bit querulous here and there. Drain the River is perfectly drawn but MTV Song is riddled with problems everywhere (still a cool song but…). Beanpole, on the other hand, is akin to what would occur were Andy Partridge and Gary Lucas to collaborate, maybe with a bit of Dave Stewart (the Egg guy, not the Eurhythmics shambles) & Barbara Gaskin after listening to Metro. That cut's perfectly documented…so maybe MTV was indeed just a weird set of decisions rather than technical goofs. Still, the timbral and aural disjunctures strain things.
Elements of the collection, as in Ciao Ciao Chicken and elsewhere, start coming through not just as entertainment for adults but just as much for very hip kids. Then the elegiac Tie My Laces steps through, taking everyone away to Wistfulland in a beautiful retro feast reminiscent of the days the Beatles were in full progressive mode along with Spanky & The Gang, the Mamas & Papas, the Jefferson Airplane, and other 60s hopheads melancholically wandering the streets, byways, and starlanes. Just like an LP yanked out from the golden heyday of the 60s, Bite the Hand is all over the place, a map of how far the rock genre can be stretched yet still remain faithful.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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