New Zealanders Liam Finn, EJ Barnes, Connan Mockasin, Lawrence Arabia and Seamus Ebbs have taken a break from their respective careers to form the side project BARB. Written and recorded in one month, their self-titled debut is an enjoyable albeit unpolished jam session.
BARB gets in the groove right away with “Leo.” It’s loose, lighthearted and sets the tone for much of the album. Despite clocking in at 48 minutes, the album blows by like an afternoon nap thanks to the band’s carefree style.
While many of the members gain inspiration from 60’s pop in their solo careers, those influences are less pronounced here. BARB keeps the era’s keen sense of melody, but incorporates funk, jazz and fusion influences. The catchy “Alcoholic Darling” is a great example with its intricate bass, driving drums and solo breaks.
Speaking of the drums, the percussion work of Ebbs often steals the show. At times he carries the band; “Beatman” is only made listenable by his booming beats and the chanting on “Not a Bird” is fueled by his rhythm.
Parts of the record feel undercooked and that can probably be attributed to the short gestation period. The end of tracks often just fizzle out. EJ Barnes’ sultry performance on “2004” makes the track a knockout until the last 45 seconds when strange, distorted vocals guide it to an awkward ending. Others like the aforementioned “Beatman” and “Characterful” feel like unfinished thoughts.
While this debut isn’t the most memorable, it is a refreshing distraction.
BARB will be released on August 24 via Yep Rock Records.