Politburo – Barrington Way (Leonard Skully Records)

Long-running Mancunian psychedelic rock/folk band Politburo has been manned by Nick Alexander (vocals, guitar, tambourine) and Dominic ‘Dom’ James (drums, percussion, keyboards) since its inception in 1999, while otherwise undergoing frequent line-up changes over the years.  The act’s latest incarnation includes members John Loveguns (guitar), Phil Meredith (guitar, keyboards), Steven Joseph (bass), and guest vocalist Chloé Sancho.  The band’s second album, Barrington Way, is slated for release 19th August via Leonard Skully Records.

Politburo started out as a dark, intense, and rebellious post-punk outfit, but the members changed their musical course before the release of their debut album, Sally and Prinss Revisited, in 2012, which mixed psychedelic rock and softer folk aspects into its alternative rock compositions.

Barrington Way continues in this amalgamated vein, reveling in a trippy, lo-fi, psychedelic haze that occasionally crystallises with bright pop melodies and vocal harmonies and/or sharper guitar distortion.  Most of the 10 tracks are steeped in a retro (circa 1960s) brew of burnished acoustic/electric guitar strum, jangling percussion, wavering organ notes, weaving lead vocals, and/or colliding vocal choruses.

Barrington Way
continues with the pressing pace of ‘Umm, Rhombus?’ which struts along with quick stabs of angular guitars, fast-tapped cymbals, and a lively drum beat.  Alexander exclaims in short phrases about, “Sitting / Listening in your room / To… a tune.”  At brief times the guitar and drum strikes mellow out with Alexander sighing in an echoed, dreamier vocal register.  In the main though, the song marches forward with determined pluck as Alexander defiantly shouts out his words with a sharp, Jim Morrison-like intonation.

A gently swaying, 1950s-era ambience radiates from next track ‘Deep, Down, Deep’.  Rapidly ticking cymbals, a laid-back drum beat, and contemplatively picked guitar support Alexander and a bevy of backing male vocals as they all bemoan the fact that, “You love her / But she swims too deep.”  A music box-like tinkling is strung through the song, but is eventually overtaken by a scraping noise that finishes off the number on a discordant note.

Alexander twists his words in an urgent, higher tone on the duskily foreboding folk-rocker ‘Breeze’.  He plaintively exclaims the vividly tormented lyrics, “I’m just some words on page / Black magic / The apprentice / His sad rage / Spells that still fail.”  The chorus opens the door into a psychedelic world that lightly spins with the sweep of strummed acoustic guitar, bass line tug, reverberating guitar and keyboard notes, and a clipped drum beat.

French singer-songwriter Chloé Sancho features on the amiable, ambling ‘C’est Moi’.  Sancho sings in a sweetly breathy tone on this rambling alt-folk tune, bolstered by Alexander’s shadowy vocals and a pleasant, continual flow of acoustic guitar strum, restless jingling percussion, low keyboard notes, and muted horn pulls.

Politburo dive deep into the realm of psychelelia with ‘A Crack in Saturn’, moving at a laid-back pace with Alexander sing-talking matter-of-factly that, “It was a dream / But I don’t want to give it up.”  The psych swirl slowly unfolds throughout the tune, rising in intensity by its end with a ponderous storm of watery, circling electric guitar lines, the firm press of wavering organ notes, and a gathering of miscellaneous noise, from little flicks of rewound tape to bustling outside sounds.

Epic album-closer ‘Barrington Way’ is a fitting calling card and finale for Politburo as it swims in a tantalising intermingling of psychedelia, folk, and rock.  Alexander asks early on, “Are you entertained?” and the answer is a definite yes for this tune.  The band channel the psych side of The Beatles for most of the trek, with Alexander’s spacey vocals launching into the brisk acoustic guitar strum, pulls of burnished horns, ticking cymbals, a measured, but pronounced drum beat, and a myriad of vocals on the uplifting chorus.  Alexander leads the procession, singing brightly, “…since we’re dreaming / Try and ride the flow / Down to Barrington Way.”

The last chorus section adds a run of bold piano notes and an electrifying fuzz of guitar distortion.  As the driving guitar buzz fades away, Alexander shouts, “Show me the way!” and the opus morphs into another song altogether, speeding up with a choppy rhythm of crisp bongos beat, fast-tapped cymbals, quick, sharply picked acoustic guitar line, horn bleats, a gritty patina of noise, and a miasma of exclaimed vocal harmonies.

Barrington Way is released 19th August on Leonard Skully Records

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