America has, so far, welcomed two highly influential British Invasions of Rock & Roll. In the early sixties, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, along with countless Mersey Beat bands, laid the foundation for everything that arrived in their mighty wake. Thirty years later, a largely stagnant music scene got a much-needed shot in the arm with a vibrant Brit Pop infusion courtesy of Oasis, Blur, The Verve, Suede and others. Decades pass and, still, every one of those albums stand up to whatever happens to be the flavor of the moment on commercial pop charts that hardly reflect artistic merit. Rock & Roll may have been born on these shores, but damn if we don’t need the Brits to come along every so often and show us how it’s done.
Now on its third release, London (by way of Nottingham)’s power trio Little Barrie is making vibrant, old-school rock music that could comfortable fit into either faction of British Invasion Rock & Roll: drawing heavily from deeply-rooted blues based rock that has never gone out of fashion. Singer/Guitarist Barrie Cadogan embodies the essence of a true guitar hero: balancing the job of vocal anchor with that of the emboldened showman whose mastery of his instrument is so ingrained it’s become second nature. The fact that his resume of live and studio work includes gigs with Primal Scream, Edwyn Collins, Morrissey, Paul Weller and The Chemical Brothers, among others, speaks volumes about Coddington’s impressive skill and creativity level. Cadogan is joined in Little Barrie by the formidable rhythm section of drummer Virgil Howe (son of legendary Yes’ guitarist Steve Howe) and bassist Lewis Wharton. Spin King of The Waves just once and the scenario of aural seduction will be complete.
“Surf Hell” kicks the album off in high gear with garage rock distortion chased with pyschobilly menace, which rolls right into the relentless pull of a minor chord melody that turns “How Come” and “Does The Halo Rust?” into instant favorites. Howe lays down an irresistibly subtle tribal undertow on “Precious Pressure” while Coddington channels his best Keith Richards. The title track’s languid guitar hooks harness the seductive power of “Crystal Ship-esque” heroin rock, and while you might be tempted to nod out on its blissful vibe, stick around for the rest of the show, because it just keeps getting better. This album is flawless – no bells and whistles or complex studio wizardry: just pure sonic rock power! Not only does it sound great, it feels amazing!
I was fortunate to catch a private showcase performance by Little Barrie a couple of week’s ago at the Rose Bar (inside the Gramercy Park Hotel – great room!) and was blown away by group’s on-stage charisma and star power that’s based 100% on expert musicianship and the ability to write kick ass tunes. I may harbor a soft spot for the British anyway, but a band must deliver the goods in order to win my affection and loyalty. Little Barrie have made an album that will surely be at the top of my list of favorites for 2012 and I invite you to fall in love with them by picking up a copy of King of The Waves. As Mohammed Ali once famously said, “It’s not bragging, if you can back it up.”
King Of The Waves was released in the UK last summer but has a US release date of February 28, 2012.