Dusted Reviews

The Barbaras - The Barbaras 2006-2008

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: The Barbaras

Album: The Barbaras 2006-2008

Label: Goner

Review date: Jan. 22, 2013

The Barbaras were a Memphis group active for the years you’d expect given the title of this collection. In addition to a family tree that includes the overrated Magic Kids, the regrettably-named Boston Chinks, and Wavves, a couple of these guys served as Jay Reatard’s backing band for a spell. Reatard sat behind the boards for these sessions, which were apparently to comprise an LP for In The Red before Reatard fell out with them and claimed to have trashed the recordings. That Reatard hung onto them, presumably knowing they’d eventually see the light of day in a collection like this one, ends up lending an unexpectedly touching vibe to the affair, which otherwise tends to sound like the Brill Building’s heyday if Adderall had existed in 1962.

The Barbaras’ Goner single — which was their only formal release prior to this one, and which is reprised in its entirety here — got a lot more play in these parts than I would have ever guessed it would, and to this day its hooks tend to lodge themselves in my head on particularly sunny days. It sounded like a group of total amateurs trying to recreate late-’60s studio magic on the cheapest gear available, which, combined with the group’s knack for pop hooks, created something scrappy and greater than the sum of its parts. Late-career Reatard, himself no stranger to studio magic, lent the later sessions a cleaner, less urgent sound that reads like The Barbaras were gunning for the big time with these recordings. (Given some of these guys’ later work in Magic Kids, they were probably gunning for the big time.)

It might be the surprising earworm effect that the single has had on me over the past few years, but the new tracks on 2006-2008 feel more like genre exercises than their counterparts. (A notable exception is "Heaven Hangs," which is the strongest song on the collection.) A lot of these songs feel like little more than collections of ’60s pop clichés, albeit well-executed ones. The Barbaras’ knack for vocal harmonies and Reatard’s strength behind the boards (his beloved The Clean/Tall Dwarfs shrill keyboard sound is especially welcome) raise 2006-2008 above the era’s similarly paced offerings by Eric & The Happy Thoughts or whoever, but ultimately The Barbaras’ commitment to genre acts as a glass ceiling.

This isn’t to say 2006-2008’s existence isn’t justified. During Gonerfest 2008, I had the privilege of seeing a Barbaras live performance. It was my first Gonerfest, and The Barbaras’ set was the only point during that entire weekend when I can remember things getting as weird as I had expected and hoped they would. It was also, maybe not-coincidentally, the only point during the weekend when the audience seemed made up predominantly of Memphis natives. A member of the band got antiqued. A guy (who the band made a big show out of not knowing) ran around in a speedo. I think firecrackers ended up making an appearance. The combination of the unique, early-’60s brand of annoyingness and horrible modern pranks is one that is very close to my heart, and it came as no mystery how the Babs ended up, for a short while, as the favorite sons of a city known for more rote (and more excellent, granted) expressions of the garage-pop format. With Barbaras members still orbiting around the garage-pop universe doing interesting things (and some of Jay Reatard’s final musical moments), 2006-2008 has assumed a position in the last few years of Memphis rock ‘n’ roll more important than anyone could have expected at the time. For the hometown heroes at Goner Records to make sure this LP saw the light of day was a no-brainer.

By Joe Bernardi

Read More

View all articles by Joe Bernardi

Find out more about Goner

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.