Barry Andrews: Contaminated Pop UK CD 
- Put Me To Work
- Sh*t Pixie
- Virgin Of The Ladder
- Abdomen Jones
- Lollipop Bomb
- Filthy Wonderland
- Feel The Need
It was only just over a year ago when Shriekback unleashed their massive “Why Anything? Why This?” album on a thunderstruck world. Since then, they’ve not been resting on their laurels. The band ran a successful Indiegogo campaign to finance the writing/recording of their next album [due later this year] and linchpin Barry Andrews has scratched the long latent solo album itch. His act of curating all of the loose bits in his early career into his first solo compilation may have possibly started the mental wheels turning in this direction a while earlier. It’s Summer 2019. Shriekback are in writing session for their next album, but Barry Andrews has completed his first, intentional solo album and it’s leaving the nest. Will it fly?
A while back, after hearing the album of bespoke Shriektunes written on little more than a title and £200 from “investors,” I was of the opinion that the techno leanings of the material might have been an outlier to the next proper Shriekback album. As it was, I could not have been more wrong. The world of loops and beats as evidenced on “The Elated World” was probably down to the fact that it was largely Mr. Andrews working solo on the project. In contrast, the last Shriekback album was largely rich, dark, and mysterious. With generous portions of live drums by Martyn Barker. Therefore it came as little shock that once I pressed “play” with “Contaminated Pop,” that the vibe I was expecting on the last Shriekback album had come instead to roost on this project.
“Put Me To Work” began the album with a bang as the thunderous rhythm track laid a foundation for the tritone synth patches that sounded like warning klaxons. Andrews’ lyrical couplets were typically dense as he jumped into the sonic puddles gleefully with both feet. The brain stomping intensity of it all drew a clear line back to the martial re-recording of “My Spine [Is The Bass Line]” as evidenced on the 1990 version on Shriekback’s “The Dancing Years.” I was wondering if that vibe would ever evidence again or simply remain an outlier to nowhere. Now I know. The climax of the song was spine tingling as Andrews uttered “let’s go berserk!” It was a moment of pupils-dilated, horizon-staring, clenched teeth intensity worthy of smoking Jack Nicholson on his best days.
By contrast, “Virgin of The Ladder” was a moonlit, piano-led ballad that would have been right at home on “Why Anything? Why This?” Or especially” Big Night Music.” Only Barry Andrews would have the chutzpah to open a song with the line “I really dig the chiaroscuro…” but this one really felt like a song for the Shrieks rather than marking out any solo territory. The subsequent “Abdomen Jones” may have lyrically reeked of Andrews artistic POV [well honed by this time] but the music bed constructed for this tune was deep into the laptop rock sone of samples and loops; giving it a different spin to what the Shriekback mothership would have made of such a song.
The almost “title track” of the album really cast the creative net widely! This track opened up with a rhythm box samba with electric piano overlaid on it and sounding not a million miles away from George McCrae’s 70s hit “Rock Your Baby” That is, if 70s R+B/pop had trafficked in minor chords and the willfully surreal metaphor of “Lollipop Bomb.” Here was where the album really rose to the occasion of its conceit of giving us a song clearly from the pen of Barry Andrews yet situated far outside of the Shriekback wheelhouse in most ways. By the time an Arabic scale melody entered the mix we knew that they weren’t in Kansas any more. Andrews’ split octave BVs on the chorus were a delight.
I wondered if “Filthy Wonderland” might have been inspired by artist Red Pig Flower’s “Dirty Filthy Wonderland” series of paintings? Though the lyric seems to more reflect Andrews’ bemusement at the lengths to which we primates seek to use new technologies for erotic stimulation first. The song started with that shuffle beat but quickly moved onward to present a glorious, almost lilting melody, that unfolded as magnificently [and ironically] as an origami flower despite being lyrically grounded in “tumescent butterflies …spurting everywhere.” The jazzy/psychedelic synth solo with looped vox at the coda diverted from the stately vibe of the song up to that point.
Next: …Paging Mr. Ferrari
I’ll be sure to give this a listen! My husband ordered me Why Anything, Why This for my birthday last year. We thought there was a defect on the CD because it wouldn’t play in my car, so we decided to email Shriekback’s official merch page. To our surprise, Barry Andrews himself emailed us back!
Odd Ghoul Out – Welcome to the comments! Lots of love for Shriekback here and yes, Barry Andrews is a mensch! He’s hands on with the merch [and probably everything else]. Did it ever play in your car? Mine has no problem. There’s some Shriek DNA in the solo album [unavoidable, completely] but he does enough differently to make it a valid solo album. It’s beyond sweet that your husband buys you Shriekback music for your birthday. Congratulations on finding “a good one.” I know that feeling!
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