Jane And Barton: Too – album review

A brand new album from Jane Lancaster and Edward Barton, and the belated follow-up to their 1983 self-titled debut mini-LP. The post Jane And Barton: Too – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

Jane And Barton: Too – album review

Jane And Barton: Too

(Cherry Red Records)

CD/DL

Released 6 August 2021

A brand new album from Jane Lancaster and Edward Barton, and the belated follow-up to their 1983 self-titled debut mini-LP, which was also released by Cherry Red Records. The duo are probably best known for the acapella It’s A Fine Day, which was treated to a danced-up hit cover version by Opus III in 1992. Too comprises of eleven new offerings composed by Edward and sung by Jane. Ian Canty ponders the prospects for a sunny 24 hours…

Nearly forty years separate the first and second Jane And Barton albums, but it feels exactly right that they pop their heads above the parapet at just this time. The seven-track debut came out back in 1983 and even in the dying days of post-punk it was an oddity, but certainly one to savour. It’s A Fine Day and I Want To Be With You were extracted as singles in the same year, but apart from the Lovely And Chicken 12-inch at the end of the 80s, nothing much else was heard from them as a duo.

Of course, they have busied themselves in other ways since then, with Jane later acting on television and Edward writing hits for Lost Witness among others, plus developing his dual career as a musician and poet. Over time, their most well-known number, It’s A Fine Day, also took on a life all of its own. Dance act, Opus III had a big hit with their cover in the 1990s and Edward nipped in with a credit from no less than Kylie Minogue with her single Confide In Me, which borrowed from It’s A Fine Day.

Which brings us to Too, an all-new album from the pairing. Given the huge gap between Jane And Barton’s activities, one may ask what has changed in their approach. The answer is, ‘not much’ and that is something we should be very grateful for. Jane still fronts Edward’s extraordinary capacity for imagery with the same sense of innocence and wonder, fused with hints of deadpan comedy.

The sound they end up producing is one that is difficult to describe. It is kind of like a mix between the mighty Young Marble Giants and The Marine Girls, with Syd Barrett supplying the songs, with a splash of St Etienne’s downbeat electro-disco thrown in for good measure.

Too is set in motion by the touching Late At Night, a sparse sound with a ringing organ that is perfectly voiced. A sample of Edward’s abundant skill with phraseology displayed on this tune is, “I take my loneliness for a walk.” For me, that encompasses a familiar feeling so well and accessibly. Added to that, he’s not afraid to use the word ‘wazzing’ when referring to rainfall either.

Stella takes things on a little more playfully, with percussion joining the keys and giving it a bouncing momentum. Edward’s voice joins Jane’s on backing vocals on a family story attuned to the more cynical, changing times we currently inhabit, tersely summed up in the line, “But now honesty doesn’t work.”

Propelled by an electro pulse, Hey! It’s The Twenty Twenties again concerns itself with the present, but also people’s preoccupation with the past. “Just enough is plenty” looms out of the song lyrics, something a lot of folk could do with considering in 2021. Next comes Shushy Time, to all intents and purposes a delicate and charming modern lullaby. Some might start at such wilful wistfulness, but I felt a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. It’s truly beautiful.

A pretty, music-box sound heralds Give Your Mum A Kiss. The sadness of time passing and life are vividly brought into focus here in a simple but thoroughly genuine way. Daisys (their spelling) And Buttercups again touches on lullabies, in an acapella number that softly tells someone who is disturbing the rest of the song’s principal character to gently shove off!

Gradual forgiveness is granted: “Make me toast, I’ll let you live.” The words are so skilfully put together on Too and Jane always strikes just the correct note. Plus it is difficult for me not to love a song that poses the question, “Can you fit chips in an intravenous drip?”

Sexy Guy Sex Girl has a touch of late-night electro-dance and soul/jazz, with Jane’s voice wavering coolly and the simple organ riff providing the link between acid house and John Shuttleworth. The following Once Around The Lake clicks rhythmically, with the vocal almost a whisper. A walk in the park is the subject, but the ducks in the pond come off second best, “Cuz bread is bad for ducks.” They do, however, get some sustenance from cut-up lettuce and the remains of Jane’s flapjack…

Clicking along with a faint bossa nova, Walking Back From Town is a tale from Edward’s world of reflection and pinpoint observation, brought to life by another of Jane’s sensitive readings. Then He’s Not Arsed has a melody built for the more electronica end of the dancefloor – a story of a floundering relationship, with Edward again vocally in the background. The lively application of electronic percussion, a core strength on much of Too, is key here.

Finally, we reach Moon, a voice-only item, which has haunting echoes of It’s A Fine Day. The final words on this LP are, “I’ve got the words all wrong,” but nothing could be further from the truth. This is a really beautiful end to an alluring record, a really deep pleasure on many levels. It has all the hope, insight and sheer poetry one could wish for, added to a winning way with low-key, but killer tunes.

Going by their track record, we’re not going to get the chance of too many more Jane And Barton collections, which definitely makes Too one to treasure. It is almost too on the nose to say this album is full of great songs, delicately applied instrumentation and the kind of unique but naturalistic wordplay that probably wouldn’t even occur to anyone other than Edward Barton. But that is what it is. We won’t get too (sorry) much better in 2021. Let us embrace it.

Edward Barton is on Facebook here and his website is here.

~

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here.

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Modern Lovers – 45th Anniversary Reappraisal

Modern Lovers (Eponymous Debut Album) 45th Anniversary Reappraisal (First released August 1976) By the time the debut album from The Modern Lovers was released in the summer of 1976 (two years after the original line up had fragmented, their material on record finally reaching the public) , critics had already declared modernism as an artistic […] The post Modern Lovers – 45th Anniversary Reappraisal appeared first on Louder Than War.

Modern Lovers – 45th  Anniversary Reappraisal

Modern Lovers (Eponymous Debut Album)

45th Anniversary Reappraisal

(First released August 1976)

By the time the debut album from The Modern Lovers was released in the summer of 1976 (two years after the original line up had fragmented, their material on record finally reaching the public) , critics had already declared modernism as an artistic movement well and truly dead. Its architectural figurehead, Missouri’s Pruitt-Igoe social housing scheme, had been demolished, the “flat” paintings lauded by the likes of Clement Greenberg were becoming less prevalent, and even in literature the new “post” age had been ushered in by the publication of Thomas Pynchon’s landmark postmodern novel Gravitys Rainbow a year earlier. Initially, it would be easy to think that Modern Lovers is a record which cares little for this, with the clean, flat lines of the bands logo adorning the artwork, and the wry hints at morality in keeping with holding on to traditional dialogues.

In spite of this, this is a record , even with the gap between the recordings and the release, with its feet planted firmly on the paradigm shift, ensuring the creation of something which still sounds sublime today. Although plenty of tried to mimic it, few have come close. The sound which runs right through the album remains perfectly distinct, from opener “Government Center” with its handclaps, slightly nasal vocals and unorthodox lyrical theme, we quickly get a glimpse into what the whole album has in store for us. What eventually emerges is something which captures a moment, but in a way the year zero attitude of the punk movement lurking around the corner would not have dreamt of. The “modern world” is a frequently referenced thing throughout the record, something that is to be “in love with”, and “not so bad”, it is also twinned with a love for the archaic. This is most strikingly represented on a pair of songs on either side of the record, Modern World and Old World, in which the two are not pitched against one another, but both celebrated. the former moves at a spiky, fast pace that reflects the modern world and its rapid evolutions, whilst the latter slows things down a little to reflect on a love of old buildings, the 1950s, and your parents world. The latter, in a world were rock’n’roll is meant to involve a rejection of your parents world, is fantastically against the grain. In this respect, they weren’t necessarily archaic but two strides ahead, favouring artistic measured approaches rather than excess rock’n’roll posturing. This can perhaps be best heard on Pablo Picasso – the choice of artist focused on fully reflecting the modernist brief in the most literal fashion.

Relationships, too, are dealt with with an old-fashioned need to settle down. On a record which was created during an era in which “groupie culture” was at its height, songs like Someone I Care About and Girlfriend (the latter’s famous mispelling in the lyrics being one of the most unlikely moments of iconic charm in music history) imply a need to find “the one.” In the Modern Lovers world, women are far from disposable (although some of the language used on Someone I Care About and the slightly posessive nature of She Cracked haven’t aged so well.)

Of course, its not all charm, hand-holding, and 1950’s buildings. Hospital is a dark testament to loving the troubled or unwell, practically glaring down the interiors of its rapidly accelerating piano line that picks up like an overwhelmed conveyor belt tugging at the narrators thought process.

By the time the second half is reached, songs like Pablo Picasso, Astral Plane  evoke a self-assured strut of certainty down city pavements, and then of course the iconic closer Raodrunner puts us fully into a world of effortless, impossible cool. They just prove how few cliches you have have to follow to capture it.

All words by Amy Britton. Find more on her archive

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