Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Bellman Barker at Union Pool, Brooklyn NY 9/21/08

A fun, often downright exciting show by this imaginative, five-piece retro unit from Washington, DC. Bellman Barker sound like they grew up listening to their parents’ old 1960s records by the Who and the Move, and at their best they sound not like imitators but actual contemporaries of those bands. They like a clattering mod beat, their frontman has the same somewhat stagy, sarcastic delivery as the late Carl Wayne before he decided to become Engelbert Humperdinck (generational reference: Engelbert Humperdinck was the Michael Buble of his time), and they’re musically adventurous. Their songs go far afield of traditional verse/chorus/verse/chorus pop, and like their influences from the 60s they frequently venture into psychedelia. And neither of their singers is afraid of using all of his vocal range.


Their lone cover was a thoughtfully meandering version of a Tom Waits song taken from some obscure poetry documentary: “Now that’s indie!” the keyboardist joked. Not everything they did at this show was successful: as much as it’s fun to make loops onstage and then play over them, it’s also not easy to do and can sound like a trainwreck if you didn’t time everything perfectly down to a split-second like Jon Brion. And as compelling as their retro-60s songs are, when they venture into retro-80s New Order/Head on the Door two-chord dance-pop, they sound like any other bunch of imitators trying to cash in on 80s nostalgia. And when you really think about it, if you eliminate that first amazing New Order single and the first good-to-excellent New Order album…well, then, New Order basically sucks.


But then the band closed their too-brief, barely 40-minute set with a new song that effectively blended both those eras, over some searing slide work by the lead guitarist. Now that was original. It was also nice to see a sizeable crowd in the house, too, especially since Bellman Barker had just played the Mercury on Saturday night. Anyone who misses the days when the Dog Show or the Star Spangles would rock the Mercury or the old Luna Lounge on a Friday night should check out Bellman Barker the next time they come to town.

September 22, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews

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