UK band Oli Barton & the Movement have been making quite the splash on the London music scene over the past year and a half. Beginning with their deliciously menacing debut single “Photograph” in late 2016, they dropped two more singles in 2017, then released their smashing album Into the Back Room that August, which I reviewed. They now follow up with a new EP How Would I Know, featuring three new tracks plus a live performance of the title track “How Would I Know?” that originally appeared on Into the Back Room.
The five member band is headed by the brilliant mastermind Oli Barton, who does the majority of the songwriting, plays guitar and sings lead vocals. The ace musicians helping Barton bring his songs to life include Ryan Wilson on lead guitar, Jamal Lagoon on Rhythm Guitar, Marco “Fuzz” Paone on Bass, and Josh Needham on Drums. With a winning combination of talent, creativity and personality, their eccentric style of alternative rock is a crazy-good mix of post-punk and psychedelia, fortified with touches of funk, grunge and pop. They employ all sorts of instruments, sounds and textures to create music that’s original and unconventional, and their direct, tongue-in-cheek lyrics are delivered with an abundance of irony and humor.
This is immediately evident on the frantic head banger “Stayed In.” The wild track has a bouncy punk/rock beat with a cacophony of plucky distorted guitars, galloping drums and tons of crashing cymbals. I love it! The amusing lyrics are a litany of bad shit that happens on those nights when you go out, drink too much, and get into trouble, thinking afterwards that you should have just stayed home to begin with (I’ve certainly had my share of those nights):
There’s blood on the dance floor
I’m fighting Mickey Mantle
for the last place in the queue
There’s puke down your shirt
from that girl who’s a flirt
and said she’d only had a few
Yeah you should have just stayed in
And no one would have thought any worse oh yeah
“How Would I Know?” is a terrific live performance of the song at the University of West London. The song speaks to teenage relationship angst, specifically the frustrations of a 16-year old boy wishing he was older so he could marry his girlfriend and “cause everyone just seems so cool.” Then, with much exasperation, Barton implores ”But are you happy? “Cause that don’t seem such an awful thing to me. Yeah, did you ever try to deceive me yeah? How would I know?” It just occurred to me that the song has a bit of an early Weezer vibe, sort of like a more punkish take on “Say It Ain’t So.” I love the barrage of jangly and heavily distorted guitars and Paone’s funky bass, and Barton’s wonderful animated vocals are passionately delivered with his charming British accent. It’s a fantastic song.
As I listen to each track I decide that one is my favorite – until I hear the next one, causing me to reassess my earlier decision. “Turning the Noose” is a phenomenal track that really showcases the band’s outstanding musicianship and Barton’s jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics. God, I love this band!
The rousing “44” is a hard-driving rock’n’roll song that addresses the debauchery of celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey who use their fame and power to abuse others to get what they want. Wilson, Lagoon and Barton dazzle us with their adept guitar work, and Needham pounds his drum kit with abandon. Barton snarls the frank lyrics that get right to the point:
Would you ever so mind if I put it in raw, I’m 44
I’m sorry young girl but I’m wanting more, and I’m 44
And I look 26 but I am much more, I’m 44
I eat up every guy on the dance floor, I’m 44
Will you mind me closing that bedroom door, I’m 44
I’m sorry young boy but I’m wanting more, and I’m 44
My best friend told me the other night
This ain’t the way to be
If you swallow me I’ll give you the right
And I’ll show you how to get your kicks for free
How Would I Know is a tasty little EP that packs a hell of a punch in just four tracks. Oli Barton & the Movement excel with every single song they’ve ever recorded, and I’m excited to hear what they come up with next.