It’s a more than mildly interesting time to be in a band called Barbara, a fact that Brighton brothers, Henry and John Tydeman will surely testify to. From April 26th the band will be heading out to support The Divine Comedy on their nationwide tour; and Friday 22nd of April sees the release of their debut, five-track EP, the thoroughly delightful – Mildly Entertaining. Henry and John describe the EP as being full of songs ‘of character and yearning inspired by…favourite novels and TV shows, the tragedy of mid-life crises and the occasional joys of solitude and reflection’.
The EP consists of Barbara’s four previous singles, plus a new track – Don’t Send Me Messages. This new song touches on one of Barbara‘s favourite, reoccurring themes – anxiety and disillusionment brought on by over reliance on apps, emails and social media. Produced by Theo Varney (English Teacher, FUR) Don’t Send Me Messages finds Barbara in their peak ‘Musical Theatre’ mode. The way the song is structured with it’s simple storytelling lyric, recurring riff, and changing tempos, means that it wouldn’t seem out of place as a set-piece in an all-singing, all-dancing West End production.
There cannot have been many songs inspired by episodes of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian TV series Black Mirror, but that was the stimulus for Barbara’s debut single BRB. The theme of the song is the relationship between a woman and an android created out of the data harvested from her deceased partners social media accounts! It’s a delicious dollop of power-pop, choc-full of lush harmonies, rich chords, and quirky changes in tempo. If it were an ice-cream flavour it would be Tutti-Frutti, containing chunks of ELO, 10cc and Sgt. Pepper era Beatles.
These New Communications brings us back to one of Barbara‘s enduring preoccupations – the continued evils of social media – the missed opportunity of what could have been. The song is an eclectic mix of extravagant strings, electric piano, chime bars, and disco beats all wrapped up in a sumptuous kaleidoscope of seventies instrumentation. When it was first released I described this track as being Supertramp meets Muse.
With Rainy Days in June Barbara take a turn off the seventies pop freeway and head down a more US AM radio friendly, MOR turnpike. The song is about the pleasures inherent in making the best of a wet, English, summer’s day, by curling up with a good book. In theme and style the song evokes feelings of Rainy Days and Mondays by The Carpenters, or Laughter In The Rain by Neil Sedaka.
John and Henry cite The Kinks as being one of their musical influences and with A Perishing of Cherished Things we find the Tydeman boys channeling the whimsical lyricism of Ray Davies. It’s a simple story of friends Wendy and Sharon ruminating on their middle aged lot, and what might have been. The song is an examination of the fact that ‘Almost no one ends up having the life they imagined for themselves when they were young’.
Cultivated, refined and urbane, you could liken Barbara‘s produce to a nice wine. I’d equate them to a Beaujolais Nouveau – fresh, light, fruity, vibrant and best savoured immediately. Sample the latest vintage in the form of the Mildly Entertaining EP.
If your taste buds are tantalised then get your fill when Barbara tour in their own right later this year :-
6th September – Birmingham, Hare and Hounds,
7th September – Manchester, Gulliver’s,
8th September – London, The Grace,
17th September – Brighton, The Prince Albert.