So, Conan, Lord Kalidor and Ax Battler walk into a bar, drink a couple of Sierra Nevada ales and steal the jukebox. The morning after, they look at themselves in the mirror, say “bloody mary” three times and they saw David Byrne.
But let’s not bother about those fictional characters and let’s talk about We Barbarians and their EP, Headspace. A five song trip through the damp streets of any major downtown, the songs are the soundtrack to a thousand upstarts commuting to their works, bagel and coffee in hand.
The fashionable, dancey post-punk delivered by the coast-jumping (New York via Long Beach) is full of good beats, with some gloomier moments to counter. ‘Headspace’ is the decisive, big-stride opener, a good calling card to show what they want to do. It’s not the best track of the collection but it’s a taste of things to come. Love the bass.
‘The wait is over’ has that little playful guitar intro that gives it a definite sense of self. Between lead singer’s David Quon crooning and the dreamy guitar tones, this is a more atmospheric (and definitely better) side to We Barbarians; the pace is more relaxed, the layers set up envelop you like a warm blanket on a cold day.
‘Stroke by stroke’ pays it forward to the 80s influence the band has (is that a homage to ‘The Promise’ I see before me?). Again, the bass is wonderful and the song is a fluffy side of catchy. 80s nostalgia is fine and dandy when done well and still, there’s enough variations from that initial 80s sound to give it a fresher spin.
Speaking of paying it forward to post-punk and dance rock, there’s a cover of David Byrne‘s ‘Strange Overtones’. Gotta admit I’ve never heard the original, but this cover made me want to listen to it. I like the cover best.
Now that I’ve lost 90% of the readers, let’s go into the last track, ‘Chambray’. Following suit from the sounds explored in ‘The wait is over’, the sound is Arena rock friendly, but never too naive to belong into the neon coloured socks of a Christmas party 26 years ago. Somebody buy Derek VanHeule (bass) a drink, he’s taking the limelight here.
It’s strange how a band like We Barbarians gets so much hate in some circles, I can’t honestly find anything to hate. Sure, it won’t break any moulds but I’m not in such a state of cynicism to expect that everything should be groundbreaking; it would lessen the impact. Headspace is a collection of 5 enjoyable songs with a heavy 80’s influence, 2 of them are very, very good (‘Strange overtones’ – love it, ‘The wait is over’ – We Barbarians finding their sound), 2 are pretty good and one is okay. 4 out of 5, that’s a good batting average.