No-one does it quite like Barbara. Or should that be the other way round? Barbara do it like no-one else. Either way, it’s true. While Elton and Ed, Adele, and er, LadBaby battle it out for the festive number one with songs full of snow, joy, togetherness, and baked produce, Brighton duo Barbara (Henry and John Tydeman) bring us a song about the joys of solitude, and the pleasure inherent in a good book on a hazy, lazy day in summer. Like the band themselves, Rainy Days in June is beautifully contrary.
With this, their third single, we can detect a slight change in tack from the good ship Barbara. The band’s previous releases – BRB and These New Communications draped themselves in seventies pop-rock regalia, there were essences of 10CC, ELO, Steely Dan and Wings. Those elements are still traceable in Rainy Days in June, but it is less 70’s pop rock, more straight-up MOR, at times verging on easy listening.
The song starts with the briefest of intros – a quick paradiddle is followed by simple, rhythmic piano chords and the vocals enter. The tone, phrasing and delivery of the vocals is the sound of 70’s US AM radio as the lyrics start – ‘A bit of food and a place in the sun and the space to get older too’. The second line however has a much more modern reference point – ‘With a permit to park my car I won’t go far it’s true’. I’ve heard the parking in Brighton can be a nightmare in the summer.
The verses of the song extol the virtues of finding some solitude in a busy, bustling world and hiding away from the madding crowd with a good book. The chorus reinforces the point – ‘Rainy days in June but I’m making the best of it’, and ‘Rainy days in June with nothing to worry me’. The song in general, but the chorus in particular brings to mind classic MOR/pop tunes such as The Carpenters ‘Rainy Days and Mondays‘ or Neil Sedaka‘s ‘Laughter in The Rain‘. It’s not just the showery subject matter of the song, but also the way in which it is constructed that creates a genuine MOR ambience. There are layers of lustrous, lush, overlapping vocal harmonies coupled with instrumentation that allows every instrument to breath, and allowing none of them to become suffocating. There’s a real feel for the source material which brings an authenticity to the song that raises high above the level of just homage or pastiche. Barbara take their old building blocks and use them create something bright and shiny and new.
Barbara’s previous singles were produced by Paul Street but for this latest offering the brothers Tydeman have handed the reins over to Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard frontman Tom Rees. As well as producing his own band, Rees has worked to great effect with other artists like his Welsh compatriots Panic Shack. If you have such an authentic 70’s pop rock sound as Barbara, you can’t go to far wrong with a producer who has written songs with titles like ‘John Lennon Is My Jesus Christ.’ Based on the evidence presented by Rainy Days in June, it’s an excellent partnership.
Every band takes their inspiration from somewhere. In an arena full of post-punk and Britpop worshippers Barbara with their love of 70’s pop-rock are as refreshing as the summer rain they sing about. If you’re looking for something a little different to listen to this festive period, make a date with Barbara. I’m sure you’ll get along. Rainy Days in June is released on November 26th.