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Anton Barbeau - Berliner Grotesk (Pink Hedgehog/Beehive)

17 June 2019

The umpteenth album from the ever-prolific Anton Barbeau, Berliner Grotesk is a tribute of sorts to the Sacramento native’s adopted city. Leaning heavily on synthesizers and other keyboards, the record crosses Barbeau’s distinctive quirk pop with the chilly atmospheres associated with Berlin’s musical history – except when it doesn’t. For every Weimar-era inspired bit like the title track or “The Gruff Exterminator,” there’s a warmer, less concept-driven track like the piano/vocal “I Been to Bromley” or the lovely ballad “Horns,” or an inspired bit of tomfoolery like “Down Weird Dog.” Not to mention “Disaster On Sandwich Island,” which starts out cold and ends up warmer than a sleeping kitten, or the folk-rocking “don’tforgettogetyourfingerwet,” or the reggae-inflected cover of the Beatles’ “Love Me Do.” Basically, despite the concept implied by the title, Barbeau does what he always does: follows his muse into whatever pocket universe best exploits his oddball lyrics and winning melodies. Which is all fine – the world could always use a pop auteur for whom the only thing to take seriously is the hook.