Little Barrie have done the opposite of what bands do. Rather than gaining polish and mellowing with age, they’ve gone scuzzier. When they emerged in the early noughties, they seemed like melodic 60s throwbacks in the same mould as The Bees. Now they’re firmly planted themselves in a different 60s counter-culture of garage bands and psychedelia. Death Express is their squalliest album yet, more in common with contemporaries like The Wytches, and none the worse for it.
Stand out track Copter is very Can, all sputtering drums and warped funkiness. (Lead man Barrie Cadogan has played live with Damo Suzuki, so not altogether surprising). Their surf rock side resurfaces on You Won’t Stop Us. Vulture Swarm emerges via some 70s synth sounds into a swampy psych-fest. Bill$ House makes a nice change of pace, a noir-ish instrumental prowl. The album makes all the right noises.
But man, is it long. No-one needs a 20 track album in these days of reduced attention spans. And certainly not from a band of Little Barrie’s low profile and specific appeal. They’re neither pompous nor multi-faceted enough to get away with it. Produkt is a passable UK R ‘n’ B groove, ditto (Nothing Will) Eliminate, but they’re little more than perfunctory. In the days of B-sides, these would have been ideal candidates.
Some more critical self-editing could’ve knocked this into shape – a trim 10 tracks (12 with interludes), rather than a bloated 20. To quote one song title, it could be more Compressed Fun.