Oli Barton & the Movement – Album Review: “Into the Back Room”

Into the Back Room album cover

As a music blogger, I’m exposed to a continuous supply of new tunes by scores of musicians, and it’s always refreshing to discover an artist or band with a unique sound that sets them apart from the crowd. London-based indie outfit Oli Barton & the Movement is such a band. 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. I love those lyrics so much that I’ll be quoting them heavily throughout this review.

The five member band is headed by Oli Barton, who does the majority of the songwriting, plays guitar and sings lead vocals. The ridiculously talented musicians helping Barton bring his songs to life include Ryan Wilson on lead guitar, Jamal Lagoon on Rhythm Guitar, Marco Paone on Bass, and Guy Monk on Drums.

Oli Barton & the Movement 2

They released their debut single “Photograph” through Coke & Dagger Records in late 2016, followed by “Sleeping With the Enemy” in April 2017 (which I reviewed) and “Kinky” at the end of June. On August 11 they dropped their first full album Into the Back Room, and it’s nothing short of brilliant. Most the of album’s nine original tracks  address subjects of duplicity and betrayal, whether it be in romantic entanglements, personal relationships or politics. In a terrific interview with Rebecca Singer for her blog Read Between the Lines, which you can read here, band front man Oli Barton explained: “‘The Back Room’ to me is that place where you lock away all those things you’re not supposed to think about or talk about. I felt like I was locked in there for a long time.”

The psychedelic album opener “Cold Call” arrives with distorted strings that have an effect on the ears quite similar to nails on a chalkboard, conveying a sense of impending menace. Then a heavy bass line enters, along with a hypnotic drum beat and gritty guitars, those tormented strings still audible in the background. At one point, we’re even treated to a bit of cow bell. The chorus has a carnival vibe as Barton laments: “There’s a cold call to your name. There’s a cold call and it’s just a game. There’s a cold call and no one’s to blame. Let me hear you breathe.” The reverberated guitar plucks at the end are a nice closer.

Next up is my absolute favorite track “Kinky,” an exuberant ball of fire that’s amazing on so many levels. It starts off with a little guitar lick, then an irresistible Spanish guitar riff takes over as Barton sings the hilarious ironic lyrics about a naughty girl in a co-dependent abusive relationship:

Oh I saw you, saw you in the playground
And I saw your boyfriend, I saw him push you down
Doesn’t it hurt when he pulls your hair?
Doesn’t it hurt when he beats ya there?

The music suddenly erupts with heavy percussion and surf rock guitar riffs as he belts out the racy chorus:

But you’re ki-i-i-inky  You’re ki-i-i-inky
You’re ki-i-i-inky  You’re ki-i-i-inky

Afterwards, a funny munchkin-like voice can be heard in the background singing “Yeah, you’re kinky baby.” The verses continue with a delirious mix of Spanish and surf rock guitars, then we’re treated to some lovely strings in the bridge before a frenzy of distorted guitars and Barton’s out-of-control vocals return for the rest of the song. Barton is clearly having fun on this wild track, as he can be heard laughing at the end. For me, it’s a blast from start to finish every single time I hear it.

The upbeat tempo belies a decidedly unhappy situation on “How Would I Know?” The song addresses the frustrations of a schoolboy that the girl he used to go with is now seeing another guy. With much exasperation, Barton implores”But are you happy? ‘Cause you don’t look like you’re getting enough to me. Yeah, did I ever leave you feeling needy? How would I know?” I love the jangly guitars and Barton’s fervent vocals that are delivered with his charming British accent. (I’m one of those crazy Americans who would enjoy hearing someone with a strong British accent read the phone book.)

To an ominous heavy rumble announcing the threat of something very bad at the beginning of “Photograph,” Barton warns us that “This is where it’s gets a little darker.” Indeed it does, as crushing bass, layers of shredded and distorted guitars, and furious crashing cymbals lend a dismal vibe. With bitterness in his voice, Barton confronts his once-girlfriend of her betrayal:

I thought I saw you in a photograph
You looked so good, yeah you were having a laugh
I though I saw you in a photograph
But who was he? ‘Cause he sure ain’t me, yeah he sure ain’t me

The hard-hitting psychedelic “Sleeping With the Enemy” takes on rampant duplicity in politics that seems to leave people feeling like they’ve been screwed, and the biting lyrics get right to the point:

And I know what it’s like, to be stabbed in the back with a knife
It’s just my life, and I’d better learn to take it from behind
Sleeping with the enemy.  Denied any sympathy
Sincerity will soon erode, when you’ve got nowhere to go

Musically, the song alternates between an aggressive, fast-paced beat and a slower, almost hypnotic cadence. The instrumentals are awesome, and Barton’s fervent vocals convey his sense of powerlessness and exasperation with the state of things. At the bridge, it all builds to a cacophonous barrage of heavy buzzing bass, distored guitars, pounding drums and impassioned vocals. It’s a great song.

The bouncy “Waste of Time” touches on a relationship with someone who drives you completely crazy, but you just can’t quit them:

I seem to be a prisoner of war
She is the worst part of my day
I’m just a fool stuck in her way
Her skinny jeans just make me look like a whore

Talk is Cheap” is a trippy little musical atomic bomb contained in just under four minutes. There’s so much going on: en eerie opening with music and vocals played backwards, strange spoken vocals “George the elephant like mastadons…”, loud industrial reverb sounds accompanied by screams that abruptly end with a slammed door. Next come mesmerizing plucked strings accompanied by a gently tapping drumbeat. Barton’s vocals enter with guitars, then the tempo ramps up with heavier guitars before calming down with added violins, then back up again in a frenzy of gnashing guitars, humming bass, thunderous drums and crashing cymbals.

The band takes a pensive turn with “Rebecca,” a bittersweet song about a woman with a troubled past who’s really good at heart, and deserves to be freed from her prison:

And while they talk about what you’ve done
They didn’t know that could be anyone
A poor young girl without a clue
There’s a story here that no one knew

A hauntingly beautiful piano is the dominant instrument on this track, and band friend Katie Mallinson provides soft echoed vocals as Rebecca.

A lovely mandolin introduces us to the languid “Coming Back for Nothing,” then a sharply strummed melodic guitar and a captivating echoed chorus ensue. It sounds like the kind of song that could have been done by Paul McCartney & Wings back in their heyday. Lyrically, it speaks to the singer’s depravity and how he screwed up his life:

Wishing I could be with a better one
I tried it off with your brother but we disagreed
But then I took the game to your mother
And she left me with nothing but dreams and some fucked-up disease

The album closes with a fantastic EDM remix of “Photograph.” This version has a great retro 80s feel that reminds me a bit of The Pet Shop Boys or even New Order. It’s not as dark as the slower original, but an interesting interpretation nonetheless.

Into the Back Room is a marvelous album, and an auspicious debut for Oli Barton & the Movement. Every track is fantastic and I love them all. Barton is an incredible wordsmith, and one of the most creative young artists I’ve come across since starting my blog more than two years ago. If they maintain the high calibre of music they’ve established with this album, they have a very promising future. Barton says he’s already written songs for their next couple of albums and I eagerly await them!

Follow Oli Barton and the Movement:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

THE TRIMS – Single Review: “The One I Want”

The Trims

San Jose, California-based indie post-punk band The Trims have been making great music since 2009, and were one of the first bands I featured on this blog, way back in October 2015 (you can check out that post here). They’ve released a fantastic new single “The One I Want,” which dropped August 30, and it’s one of their best songs yet. Featuring their signature high-energy, guitar-driven sound, the track is an exuberant expression of love.

“The One I Want” launches with a pummeling bass line, then layer upon layer of guitars are added as drummer Billy Brady pounds out a steady beat that literally forces the body to move. To say that the song is catchy is an understatement; its melody is outstanding and unforgettable, staying in my head long afterward. Gabe Maciel’s beautiful soaring vocals are packed with emotion as he sings about his steadfast devotion, even when it seems he no longer cares:

You say I never call or write you letters like I used to do before
Just know that even though my words have fallen short my love has only grown
You are the one I want to be the one who calls
You are the one I want to be the one who calls when everything goes wrong

“The One I Want” is a gorgeous song, and further proof that The Trims are as charismatic and strong as they’ve ever been.

Connect with The Trims:  The Trims / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

THE TRIMS – Single Review: “The One I Want”

 

The Trims

San Jose, California-based indie post-punk band The Trims have been making great music since 2009, and were one of the first bands I featured on this blog, way back in October 2015 (you can check out that post here). They’ve released a fantastic new single “The One I Want,” which dropped August 30, and it’s one of their best songs yet. Featuring their signature high-energy, guitar-driven sound, the track is an exuberant expression of love.

“The One I Want” launches with a pummeling bass line, then layer upon layer of guitars are added as drummer Billy Brady pounds out a steady beat that literally forces the body to move. To say that the song is catchy is an understatement; its melody is outstanding and unforgettable, staying in my head long afterward. Gabe Maciel’s beautiful soaring vocals are packed with emotion as he sings about his steadfast devotion, even when it seems he no longer cares:

You say I never call or write you letters like I used to do before
Just know that even though my words have fallen short my love has only grown
You are the one I want to be the one who calls
You are the one I want to be the one who calls when everything goes wrong

“The One I Want” is a gorgeous song, and further proof that The Trims are as charismatic and strong as they’ve ever been.

Connect with The Trims:  The Trims / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

LOST ON ME – EP Review: “Demonstration”

I’m a huge fan of Depeche Mode and New Order, so it’s natural that I would like UK post-punk band Lost On Me. Originally begun as a solo project of singer/songwriter and guitarist Martin Downing (who was previously in the bands Fractions, Lavotchkin, RoadToCairo & End Reign), the Newcastle-based act now includes his life partner and bassist Jazmine Rains (and on rare occasions, long time friend Michael McCaughy joins them on drums for live performances). Lost On Me dropped their debut EP Demonstration in April, including a limited release on cassette tape via Glasgow label Burnt Church Press. The EP was mixed and mastered by Chris McManus at Blank Studios in Newcastle.

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The EP’s bass-heavy, guitar-driven sound is darker than Martin’s previous music when he played in other bands. In an interview with online magazine NARC., he explained “I’ve been a fan of the darker sides of the music spectrum from an early age and I think I underestimated how dark the EP came off until we started receiving reactions. I guess just saying we’re fans of Depeche Mode and New Order was a bit lazy on our part. There’s a huge range of bands that have influenced us. I’m a lifelong Joy Division nerd!” That love of Joy Division is clearly evident the moment you hear the opening track “Protection.” Martin’s deep, smoldering vocals at times even sound strikingly similar to Ian Curtis.

“Protection” and the next two tracks “Landslide” and “Balance” are incredibly dynamic, with Jazmine’s powerful bass lines, accompanied by strong percussion, moving the driving beats forward. Martin’s jangly, reverb-heavy guitar work is exceptional, creating a vibrant and mesmerizing soundscape. His echoed, mysterious-sounding vocals have a compelling, otherworldly vibe that perfectly match the dark instrumentals. The tempo slows a bit on “New Beginnings,” though the thumping bass, power drums and marvelous guitar work are still in abundance. Each track flows seamlessly into the next so that, taken in its entirety, Demonstration feels and sounds like a fantastic post-punk symphony in four movements.

Lost On Me2

The clever black and white video for “Landslide” shows claymation figures of teeth and foods dancing in what appears to be the inside surface of a very large mouth. Some of the teeth are brushing and flossing each other as a dark figure that I’m guessing represents decay prances about, at first playing nice with the teeth and desirous of their adoration, but then suddenly attacking them with a clawlike object.

The video for “Balance” shows frenetic sped-up scenes of the American West, a projectile tearing through an egg, a ball bearing or marble splashing into a bowl of milk, atomic bomb blasts, Los Angeles traffic in the 50s, and an old college football game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. I may be way off-base, but my take is that the images are meant to symbolize the precarious balance (or imbalance) inherent in both natural and man-made environments.

For readers living in or visiting the UK, you can catch Lost On Me at one of these upcoming shows:

16th July 2017 @ The Cluny 2, Newcastle w/ Thread Bear + more
21t July 2017 @ Head Of Steam, Newcastle w/ Irma Vep + Wedding
11th August 2017 @ The Cluny 2, Newcastle w/ Human X + more
1st September 2017 @ The Cluny, Newcastle w/ Twist Helix + more
17th September 2017 @ Opium, Edinburgh w/ Eager Tongue, Knifed out of Existance + more
7th October 2017 @ The Black Bull, Gateshead w/ Ghost Signals, Mausoleums & more
14th October 2017 @ The Catholic Club, Horden w/ Ghost Signals, The Black Riders Club
28th November 2017 @ Little Buildings, Newcastle w/ Boy Harsher, Eager Tongue + more

Connect with Lost On Me:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud / YouTube

Purchase:  Bandcamp

OLI BARTON AND THE MOVEMENT – Single Review: “Sleeping With the Enemy”

Oli Barton and the Movement is a London-based indie alternative rock band with a winning combination of talent and personality. They released their terrific debut single “Photograph” through Coke & Dagger Records in late 2016, and in April they dropped their brilliant new single “Sleeping With the Enemy.” The band deftly melds alt-rock with a bouncy psychedelic punk groove to create a complex song that’s equal parts catchy and menacing.

Oli Barton

The four member band is headed by Oli Barton, who does the majority of the songwriting, plays guitar and sings lead vocals. Their hilarious Facebook page bio cleverly introduces each band member, so rather than attempt to paraphrase, I’ll just copy and paste as is for my readers’ enjoyment:

“Oli is an alternative musician who is the only modern artist to truly inherit classic British eccentricity. By utilising a unique sense of humour and an unequaled songwriting talent, along with the Movement [he] creates a sound that is personal yet anthemic, alluring yet pensive, and enjoyable yet thoughtful.

The Movement are:
Guy Monk – Drums
Guy is a strange fellow, ridiculously talented but crazily articulate for a drummer. He likes to spend his time going into toy shops and rearranging stuffed animals into a Circle of Life arrangement.
Marco Paone – Bass
Marco is the resident Italian Stallion. Famed for his close friendship with Gary Barlow, he is known to enjoy country walks and simply adores taking the time to visit zoos and pet the penguins.
Ryan Wilson – Lead Guitar
Apparently an admirer of fine wines, Ryan’s expertise are most credible playing lead guitar. He is said to have a pedalboard longer than the Great Wall of China and is also said to be the finest guitar player in the South of England. One of these statements is true.

Oli Barton & the Movement

The band has been playing lots of gigs in and around London over the past year or so, building a loyal fan base with their engaging performances. In an interview with  Johnny’s New Music Lowdown Blog, drummer Monk said “Our gigs are just mental. We have amazing crowds. That connection on that night when its just us and the audience is extraordinary. We get into the crowd and pull fans up on stage. The vibe of the audience is contagious and it pushes us even further!” The band took some time off from performing while finishing up on the album and making the videos, but has several shows lined up in the coming months.

In the same interview, Oli said of “Sleeping With the Enemy: “I hate to say it’s about Trump because everyone’s making tracks about Trump.” My personal take is that the song is essentially about rampant duplicity in politics of late that always seems to leave people feeling like they’ve been screwed, and the biting lyrics get right to the point: “And I know what it’s like, to be stabbed in the back with a knife. It’s just my life, and I’d better learn to take it from behind. Sleeping with the enemy. Denied any sympathy.  Sincerity will soon erode, when you’ve got nowhere to go.

Musically, the song alternates between an aggressive, fast-paced beat and a slower, almost hypnotic cadence. Wilson and Barton’s guitar work is awesome, with lots of shredding and distortion going on, and Paone’s bass anchors the track without overpowering. Monk’s drumming is spot on, matching the bass line note for note, while Barton’s fervent vocals convey his sense of powerlessness and exasperation with the state of things. At the bridge, it all builds to a cacophonous barrage of heavy buzzing bass, distorted guitars, pounding drums and impassioned vocals.

The dark video for the song was filmed in a dismal abandoned factory. The band is shown performing outside the factory, interspersed with scenes of Barton running through the woods and ending up at the factory, appearing to be fleeing some unseen tormentor. At one point he’s shown blindfolded and kneeling with his hands tied behind his back.

The band plans to drop their third single “Kinky” at the end of June, and their debut album soon after. I’m looking forward to hearing both.

Follow Oli Barton and the Movement:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify
Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon

EP Review: RED LIGHT RUNNER – “What Are You Thinking About?”

My spotlight is still on the UK, where I now review the new EP What Are You Thinking About? from alternative indie post-punk rock band Red Light Runner, which dropped today, October 21st. The 5-track EP is their first release since their successful 2014 double-sided single “Lucky Thirteen/Just Might Find,” which itself arrived nearly seven years after their debut self-titled EP was released in December  2007. Those earlier tracks hold up well but, musically and lyrically, the band really ups their game with this new EP.

Hailing from Kent, Red Light Runner includes Dan Balson (Guitar, Lead Vocals), Russell France (Guitar), Lee Vickery (Bass) and Joe Michael (Drums).  Their fresh, high-energy music sounds like what you’d get if Blink-182 and Jimmy Eat World jointly gave birth to a new band. Catchy hooks, driving beats, assertive drums and lively, multi-textured guitars are the hallmarks of their songs. Although many of the lyrics address problematic relationships, this EP will have you on your feet from start to finish. Whether intentional or not, these are all songs meant to be performed live, and I’m sure these guys put on a great show.

red-light-runner

The EP starts off strong with “First Time,” as we’re hit with a barrage of shredded guitars and hammering drums. The track settles into a hard-driving rhythm with heavy melodic riffs, and Balson sings of disillusionment over a relationship turned sour. This is an exhilarating song that kicks ass!

The title track and first single “What Are You Thinking About?” speaks to living your own truth rather than wanting another’s life or living according to the expectations of others: “Someone else’s life is played out inside your head / Now it’s time to live the moments you have instead / Don’t allow yourself to lock you out / Always trust someone to turn you around / When you fall it seems a long way down / What are you thinking about?”  Rapid-paced guitars work in tandem with heavy bass and pummeling drums, resulting in a terrific song. This track, as well as others on the EP, feature backing vocals by songstress Charlie Dorrell.

Gnashing guitars announce the arrival of “Make You Pay,” another hard-driving track about bitterness over a failed relationship: “We’ve seen this road before, and I don’t think you understand / Another time, another place, another time and the moment slips too far away / I seem to find all my life, I’m left behind / I’ll make you pay.”  The powerful guitar riffs on this track are awesome, made even more so by Joe Michael’s thunderous percussion.

One of my favorite tracks is “Right Place Wrong Time.” The song rocks quite nicely, but with a bit more poignancy and, once again, the guitar riffs are superb, soaring to an ear-splitting distorted crescendo at the end. Charlie Dorrell’s sublime vocals are also more apparent on this track. The final track “Be Mine Again” is a rousing number, with more of the band’s signature complex, pummeling riffs and speaker-blowing percussion. The song addresses the singer’s need to survive life’s hardships: “Need to get out, pick myself up, carry on, and this world will be mine again.

I have to admit that it took a few listens for me to fully appreciate the quality and depth of the songs and lyrics, but my conclusion is that this is a very well-crafted EP that gets better with each listen. These guys are really accomplished musicians who coax some awesome sounds from their instruments, and the lyrics are not as obvious as they seem at first glance – or should I say listen?  Support these guys by following them on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to their Youtube channel. Stream their music on Spotify, and purchase their music on BandcampiTunes or other sites offering music for purchase.