More about: Barringtone
“A Bonanza Plan,” explains Barry Dobbin of Barringtone in the press release for the album that takes its name, “is an idea based on some of the more hyperbolic management theory/self-help, absurdist, go-getting, self-determination aids to modern life that are routinely presented to the modern consumer citizen - everyone needs one if they are to experience the ongoing material/spiritual/creative bonanza - if you haven't got a Bonanza Plan get one now!”
Dobbin, the evidence would suggest, has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek while unleashing his bold statement. The fact that’s it’s been 12 long years from the first Barringtone single in 2008 to the arrival of this, their debut album, does seem to indicate that living in and for the moment rather than following some pre-determined career trajectory, has been more of a priority.
Then there’s the fact that this album could barely be further in style from the work of his former band Clor – short lived but now legendary cult electro pop heroes of the noughties - if Dobbin had made it his central mission. While his former partner in Clor, Luke Smith, has subsequently used his electronic pop production skills to work with Shitdisco, Foals, Everything Everything and Depeche Mode, Dobbin has moved right to the other end of the spectrum. Barringtone’s vision, conversely, is based on a raw, stripped down guitar, bass and drums sounds, often but not always avoiding vocals and using synths in the subtlest of almost imperceptible manners. Instead of the simple but magnetic 4/4 charm of Clor, they go for the kind of complex, ever changing arrangements and off kilter time signatures that would give Frank Zappa a headache. It’s the kind of thing you might be tempted to call prog if only it wasn’t so unpretentious in its presentation and executed with a sharp-edged, punk rock harshness. It’s also, unlike most prog, not afraid to nuzzle up to a decent tune on a regular basis.
So, while opening tune ‘Foxes and Brimstone’ seems to go through change after rapid change, they’re ultimately all in service to the sumptuous vocal harmonies that lie at the song’s core. Likewise, ‘Dreamboyz’ starts with Beach Boys-esque voices singing about unicorns and tigers making rainbows and yet still ends up being the catchiest math rock workout you’re ever likely to encounter. It’s wonderfully daft and refuses to play ball rhythmically in quite a similar way to the more twisted moments on Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride album.
The instrumental ‘Into The Woods’ starts with Dobbin building a wall of simple guitar chords borrowed from a mid 70s AC/DC album, building to a frantic, manic climax, with the again wordless ‘The New New’ paving the way for ‘Emily Smallhands’, probably the most whimsical and psychedelic moment on the album.
If you’re feeling slightly bewildered at this point of the LP, no-one could blame you. So it’s precisely the right moment, in other words, to land the killer blow in the arsenal. ‘Feverhead’ is a proper hands in the air anthem that sounds so much more powerful in its direct, driving simplicity having been placed here in the running order, with the hypnotic foundations laid by drummer Boomer Opperman and Connan Cooledge paying maximum dividends. Imagine a gleeful sounding Pixies covering ‘Turn It On Again’ by Genesis and you might be close. But whatever your references, you’ll be singing it for days to come.
‘Technollipop’ follows on, echoing the fraught tension of Devo or the never settling scattergun structure of Cardiacs, as Aaron Doyle’s keyboards get an opportunity to push their way to the front of the picture. Then ‘Pet Gazelles’ brings us to a frantic end, a great climax to events in the way it plays off the band at their most direct and their most obtuse. It’s fast, heavy and rowdily schizophrenic.
A perfect summation, in other words, of what we learn about Barringtone during Bonanza Plan. They’re definitely not into making life easy for you, but put the effort in and surrender to their unusual vision, a rich and rewarding journey awaits you.
Bonanza Plan is released on 21 August 2020 via Onomatopeoia Records.
More about: Barringtone