Barton – Simple Songs
Barton is one of those bands that makes you pine for a different era of music, when the instrumentation was crisp and unfettered, the harmonies were pure, and the lyrics were, quite frankly, simple and not in need of decoding. In their aptly named, expansive 16-track new album, “Simple Songs,” this is exactly what the band has accomplished. They’ve combined the traditional techniques that made the music of the best bands of the 1970s so timeless. It’s no wonder that Barton cites the likes of Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Rush as some of their top influences—those groups would be proud to listen to the way Barton has carried on the traditions instilled in them by that classic era.
The album opens with “We Are the Ones” on a deceivingly hard-edge bass and drum progression, before moving into fun, bouncing harmonious rock. “Tiny acts of kindness, brightened by the sun, beyond our doubts of sadness ’cause we, we are the the ones,” the band sings, optimistically. The listener is instantly thrust into a “sunlight” of their own, the warmth of which remains throughout the album.
On the third track of the album, “The Healer”, Barton finds a sense of lethargic apathy, lamenting the woes of Father Time. They sing, “Time is not a healer, it’s just a mask,” speaking to the ability of time to cover up some wounds, but not remove them completely. This is at odds with the album’s early optimism, but provides a nice contrast that keeps listeners on their toes.
It is on the fourth track that we really begin to hear some of the darker Led Zeppelin influence known to be close to the heart of Barton. Specifically, “Tool” has dark upward chord progressions similar to those found in Zeppelin’s dark classic, “Kashmir”. The album’s taken a decidedly more dark direction at this point, but frankly, it works.
The album remains dark and elusive—but never without energy—until it begins to open up earnestly on “For Awhile”, the ninth track. The singer pines for a secret—or perhaps not-so-secret love whom he knows is with the wrong person; “And then you tell me that he isn’t right for you.” The temporary emotional rest is a nice reprieve, before the album regains steam.
And it happens immediately after, on the tenth track, “Palo Alto,” a fast-paced early-80s tune that sounds almost reminiscent of early Cure songs with its hard-edge electric guitar stamp.
The blood is flowing again, and this energy carries the rest of the album, all the way to standout final track, “The Big Dig,” arguably the strongest on the album. Barton strategically placed this song at the end, as it combines with opener “We Are The Ones” to convey a cocky confidence that is the overarching theme of the production as a whole.
Classic rock and new-age connoisseurs alike will enjoy the varied sounds and themes that Barton’s “Simple Songs” has to offer. It’s a coming-of-age album tinged with 1970s nostalgia and simultaneously steeped in the sounds of the times, and in all honesty, it rocks.
Review by Chad Thomas