Sometimes I think we must be living in a parallel universe and somewhere else, Little Barrie are getting the credit and acclaim they deserve. Come to think of it, maybe that’s Japan, where they have to clear whole floors of the hotel so that Little Barrie can be protected from obsessive fans. Death Express has already been released for some months there, albeit in a slightly different format.
It is the third album by the current, very stable, line-up of Barrie Cadogan, Lewis Wharton and Virgil Howe. Musically, it is one hundred percent Little Barrie as they continue on their modern-retro odyssey. Lyrically, it is darker and some might say more pessimistic than the previous albums. There is a feeling of the passing of time and an increased sense of urgency to just get things done.
Different from their previous albums in that the band have taken a far more DIY approach, Death Express is a delicious twenty track monster of rawness. Structurally, the album is also interesting. The main tracks are interspersed with short instrumental interludes, a brilliant idea given the length of this album. It is also reflective of the band’s move into film and tv scores. ‘Rejection’, ‘The Dodge’ and ‘Sonic Lodge’ are all greasy denim intermissions rather than miniature tubs of ice-cream ones.
The single ‘I.5.C.A’ and the title track ‘Death Express’ see Barrie Cadogan experimenting with yet another sound he can drag from his guitar. He is like a mad scientist Jimi Hendrix. The noise is grungy and fuzzy and made from what looks like a scouring pad. There’s more than a little of Starsky and Hutch cardigans and car chases about this track.
You can always rely on Cadogan to come up with some lyrics of utter gorgeousness, with turns of phrase verging on the poetic. When this is combined with a longing vocal and his expressive guitar, it can’t miss. ‘Golden Age’ is one such place where he sings, ‘take your memory walking’ and yearns ‘I want it all again’. Similarly, on ‘Count to Ten’ when Cadogan gets into a tortured sinew of call and response with his own guitar, ‘I couldn’t face that scream again’.
Little Barrie ooze self-confidence. They play with melody and rhythms like they are baiting animals caught in a bear trap. The spirit of rebellion and defiance runs through everything they do and this gets explicit airing on tracks with some social commentary such as ‘You Won’t Stop Us’, ‘Love or Love’ and ‘Vulture Swarm’ with its swirling noise and sinister bass line. ‘New Disease’ is like having a crocodile’s jaws clamped to your lower leg. The sheer intensity of noise that these three make!
In all their Cuban-heeled, Chelsea-booted brilliance, they make it look so effortless.
Death Express will be released on 7th July 2017 through Non-Delux/Cargo Distribution.