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BARR - Beyond Reinforced Jewel Case

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Artist: BARR

Album: Beyond Reinforced Jewel Case

Label: 5 Rue Christine

Review date: Feb. 26, 2006

In elementary school, kids used to make up new words for existing acronyms. Well, “B is for ‘political,’ A is for ‘drums,’ R is for ‘music,’ and R is for ‘right now;’” and BARR is for Brendan Fowler, a reformed, L.A.-living New Yorker. Beyond Reinforced Jewel Case, his first outing on 5RC, reworks some songs from BARR’s last multi-song release, What Would the Second BARR, on his own DoggPony label.

One could probably review an entire BARR record by splicing together things he says about himself in his songs, but that would be lazy. Suffice it to let his lyrics describe his musical style: “I’m absolutely not trying to enter the white, underground art-rap idiom…I am into freedom jazz and I think that you’re kind of a little bit of a classicist…’Dude you’re fully talking over beats!’ ‘Yeah, I would definitely describe the way I see what I make as fairly aggressive talking over drums.’”

What Would the Second BARR was an intense, focused blast of BARRian rambling, eight two-minute songs in which he never stops talking. Beyond Reinforced Jewel Case dilutes him by bulking up the real songs with short interludes, speech by people other than Fowler, and even an instance in which he almost sings. Perhaps this will make his strangeness more palatable to some, but it immerses us less in BARR’s remarkable psyche, and that is a loss.

If you’ve ever been stuck in some dead-end dinner party conversation in which you can’t help but burst out “But art MATTERS!” BARR understands the sentiment, and he thinks that art is political, and that everything is political, and that everything in the world is important. During Beyond Reinforced Jewel Case, he talks about making music, about mean hecklers at shows, about L.A. Blink 182 kids in skate shops, and about his father dying, all with the same tone of love. In this cynical world, he offers a safe place for creativity and guileless, unironic experience of life.

BARR’s drumming rules. Repeating marimba chords on “Like, I Used to Like” kicks the record into high gear, and Fowler also favors peppy, muffled snare and bass drum. His vocal cadence is like that of the summer camp chant that goes, “Hello, my name is Joe, and I work…in…a but-on fac-to-ry. I’ve got a wife and-a-job and a fam-i-ly.” And it goes “B is for ‘we will overcome,’ A is for ‘always,’ R is for ‘it may take a minute,’ and R is for ‘but always in the end yes.’”

By Josie Clowney

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