Reviews: Three Minute Tease
THE BIG TAKEOVER
by Michael Toland
Psinger/psongwriter Anton Barbeau has put out consistently winning psych/pop records for nearly two decades now. With his new project, however, he's hit a new plateau. Joined by Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor, formerly Robyn Hitchcock's Egyptians, the Sacramento-bred/Berlin-based Barbeau brings on the wonderful Three Minute Tease, a new album (and band) that's a marvel of pop hooks and acidic twinkle. "Love is Onion" and "Thanks For Lifting My Leg" fizz and pop in a giddy rush, while "Milko II," "Up On the Moon" and "Sensual Pleasure of Pie" undulate in waves of psychedelic balladry. "Dig My Bones," "Queen of Apples" and "Dust Beneath My Wings" are sparkling examples of Barbeau's primary genius: ridiculously catchy midtempo pop tunes with gently eccentric (but not nonsensical) lyrics. Unsurprisingly, given their long association with Hitchcock and his similar sensibilities, Metcalfe and Windsor are the perfect rhythm section for Barbeau, pushing him to new heights of melodic inspiration. Given the self-released and promoted nature of this release, it would be easy to overlook. But if you've any kind of hankering for heart-on-sleeve whimsy and instantly lovable melodies, you owe it to yourself to spin Three Minute Tease.
Three Minute Tease are US ex-pat Anton Barbeau's powerpop trio, completed by the 'other two' members of Robyn Hitchcock's Egyptians, bassist Andy Metcalfe and drummer Morris Windsor. Their eponymous 2011 debut shifts between ringing powerpop (opener Love Is Onion, Thanks For Lifting My Leg) and more reflective material (Dust Beneath My Wings, These Alien Angels), particular highlights including the joyous Love Is Onion, the beautiful Milko II and the sparse-yet-rhythmic Up On The Moon.
Upon finding a Mellotron in the kitchen at their studio, facing the wall (right), Barbeau managed to extract a few parts from it, although he also openly credits the M-Tron. Anyway, we get a high string line on Love Is Onion, something (background choirs?) on Dust Beneath My Wings, definite choirs on My Potato, a choir swell at the beginning of Sensual Pleasure Of Pie, followed by upfront strings, with chordal flutes and cellos on Dig My Bones, choirs towards the end of Up On The Moon and, finally, strident strings on the unlisted twelfth track, what sounds like an early instrumental mix of Love Is Onion. Did the M400 provide the strings, flutes and cellos and the M-Tron the choirs? Either way, a fine album, worthy of your hard-earned sheckels. Anton tells me that he's already sourced another Mellotron for the follow-up, so watch this space...
by Dj Astro
Anton is a big Robyn Hitchcock/The Soft Boys/Egyptians fan and he first met Hitchcock's band mates Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor in 1988 when the Egyptians were playing at San Francisco's Fillmore. Decades later Anton invited them both to start up a band with him and spent some time is Oxford, UK playing live and recording. Anton wrote most of the songs on this album in 2010 purposely for Three Minute Tease but some of the tracks are a bit older. In addition to the trio the album features several guests like for example Anton's old mate Nick Saloman (The Bevis Frond) who plays and amazing and psychedelic guitar solo on "Love Is Onion."
The track that has the most hit potential is obviously the groovy and pop-like opener "Love Is Onion" and there is also a nice video for that. This is like a modern version if The Beatles, simple, effective and great! "Milko II" is a rather melancholic, beautiful and atmospheric piece that has acoustic guitar, piano and brilliant vocals. Then we go into friskier and happier moods again ("Thanks for Lifting My Leg"), and the sort of ballad-like praise for love "Dust Beneath My Wings" has some cello as well. "My Potato" is again happier wackiness, "These Alien Angels" a slow, dark, deep and rather minimal track. The song called "Sensual Pleasures of Pie" has a nice, mystical, Eastern mood and some Beck influences. One of my favorites! Nice pop-rock is presented with "Dig My Bones" and "Up on the Moon" is a waltz-like slow one. The official album ends with "Queen of Apples" that starts off and ends with bird-song and acoustic guitar and after that there are still a couple of surprise tracks... This is a very rewarding, melodic and enjoyable album that for sure has lots of nice stuff for a lot of people.
by Jennifer Kelly
Anton Barbeau is one of the world's great underappreciated songwriters. He is incapable, it seems, of going three minutes without an indelible hook, tossing off ear-wormy tunes with the profligacy of a Davies or, possibly, a Barrett. He sinks these hooks deep into fuzzy piles of psychedelic overload, embellishes them with Magritte-ish verbal absurdities and blares them hard and sweet out of Nuggets-era guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. And, year after year, the world at large fails to notice.
Not that Barbeau doesn't have his admirers. Nick Salomon (of similarly trippy melodic Bevis Frond) has been a co-conspirator since the early ‘00s, joining with Barbeau on 2003's excellent King of Missouri and turning up here, nearly a decade later, on lead guitar for opening track "Love Is Onion." And never mind that Barbeau works the same cozily bizarre corners of pop as Robyn Hitchcock, he has also commandeered the man's band: Three Minute Tease (the band, not the album) is made up of Barbeau and ex-Soft Boys Andy Metcalf and Morris Windsor.
The result is one of Barbeau's best albums ever, a diverse collection of soft ballads and hard rockers, melancholic wistfulness and exuberant pop, all framed in the sweet, swirling idiom of mid-1960s garage psych. "Love Is Onion" is the first and maybe the strongest song on the disc, entering in on a strange, scrape-y, possibly 13th Floor Elevators-inspired percussion, raising the stakes with chiming, sweeping guitar chords, and sealing the deal with an exultant updrafting melody and climaxing in an unmistakably Frond-ish guitar solo. Love the song? Want to hear it again? There's a no-vocals dub version tucked in at the end.
Barbeau is at an age when nostalgia comes into play, never more beautifully than on the slow, wistful "Milko II." The track is named, Barbeau explains, after a misheard lyric from Hot Chocolate; he always thought they were singing, "I believe in Milko...you sexy thing." "These Alien Angels" with its human boom box percussion and lingering piano chords, is another down-tempo winner.
Yet the best songs are upbeat, dressing vexing existential questions in a silly suit. "Thanks for Lifting My Leg" puts a giddiness under its home-made cosmology ("Beneath the robe, a naked girl/beneath the girl there lies the surface of the world/beneath the world another world/and under the robe you'll find another naked girl"), guitars rushing off in all directions in antic glee. "My Potato" considers the intersection of god, love, memory and gardening, slipping a wink, though a serious wink, in the observation, "If god is love, then love is the goddest of all."
Throughout the music is sharply, joyfully played and studded, as mentioned earlier, with unshakeable melodic hooks. These are songs that you'll find yourself humming under your breath long before you've found out what they mean—and long after you've stopped trying to figure them out.
Hot on the heels of a "greatest hits" compilation, Anton Barbeau returns from the trippy wilderness as part of Three Minute Tease, a collaborative effort that is effectively Anton Barbeau with a band. Very effectively. And what a band: Andy Metcalfe (bass) and Morris Windsor (drums) are both legendary Egyptians of Robyn Hitchcock fame and surely one-time heroes of a certain young psychedelic anglophile from California.
So, does Ant's psychedelic-rock-folk Tin Machine work? Indeed it does. Opener 'Love Is Onion' sets the pace by letting fresh air into some of the more cramped but wonderfully disturbing areas of Ant's work by presenting something still mind-expanding, but also grounded and warm; it's not necessarily commercial, but it's all-out accessible. In many ways it recalls 'Fuzzchild', my favourite track from his last 'proper' release, but here it's a precise and mature piece of work.
Unlike previous releases (I'm thinking Apple Sun, Psychedelic Mynde, Drug Free, etc) there is little here of Ant's usual playful production and his customary madcap vignettes (though the regulation apples and bananas remain present), all of which have been traded in for something quite well-polished and beautifully tooled; a different kind of Ant magic, if you will.
'Milko II' is a delirious piece of melancholy, bursting with Beatles tributes, while 'Queen of Apples' steals it's guitar intro from The Small Faces, its 'Itchycoo Park' rhythms exploding into a kind of surfy bliss. 'Thanks for Lifting My Leg' rocks and rolls, and 'These Alien Angels' is another mellow piece that almost becomes a typical slice of Ant barminess, before disappearing; it's all too brief, like only half a song.
Outstanding tracks include 'Sensual Pleasure of Pie' and 'My Potato': the former a wonderful, quirky, loping thing; the latter a vibrant and electric celebration in true Ant style, featuring great (sampled?) backing vocals from usual collaborative suspect Allyson Seconds.
This is a great album, richly produced, and a great introduction to Ant's work for those who've never heard him before. All the songs are composed by Ant, and he takes a half-share of the production duties, but it's quite clear to those of us who know him that this is Ant working equally with others. Things aren't perhaps as crazy as usual, but the lyrics remain full of Ant's whimsies and foibles, betraying a sophisticated and off-beat sense of humour that never fails to delight.
You really should own this. Why? Well, any album, any artist that can produce a song as tender, brilliant, epic and intimate as 'Up On the Moon' needs to be heard by everyone. For me, this is probably Ant's best 'serious' song; his 'Purple Rain' if you will, his big power ballad. A beautiful piece of work. In a parallel universe, it's a HUGE commercial hit. What a gem.
KVMR (Nevada City, CA)
by Julia BK
The latest album from Anton Barbeau finds this erstwhile Sacramentan at a bit of a crossroads: living in England, poised for a move to Berlin, and teamed up with Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor (of Soft Boys/Egyptians fame, with Robyn Hitchcock)—and, if the record is anything to go by, quite at home with it all. This album pairs some of Anton's best songwriting yet with a truly brilliant musical lineup; Three Minute Tease sound like they've been a band in some previous lifetime, and the songs are addictively catchy whilst simultaneously tapping a deeper cosmic vein. "Milko II" is a particular favorite here, a perfect distillation of questionably rose-tinted memory. (I'm sure there's a German word for that.)
DER NEUE TAG
(Translated from the German)
Andy Metcalfe once formed the stable rhythmic backbone of the Soft Boys and Robyn Hitchcock. Together with Morris Windsor from those days and old-school hippie Anton Barbeau from Calfornia they have brought about this psychedelic gem. Nick Saloman from the Bevis Frond helped out, and so did Oxford's Stornoway. The whole record is pervaded by the ghosts of Syd Barrett, George Harrison, Andy Partridge and even Julian Cope. We find space rock, sixties West Coast folk, power pop, stoner lyrics and the whole thing is held together by Metcalfe's powerful bass.
by Ullrich Maurer
(Translated from the German)
This record is highly amusing, diverting, and maybe a little odd because aside from frontman Anton Barbeau, two former Soft Boys (Robyn Hitchcock's legendary back-up band) are a part of it and for good measure Nick Saloman from Bevis Frond gets into the act a few times. The results is a decidedly varied, again and again surprising, pert/spacy power pop work of art with clearly a touch of glam and a manageable dose of psychedelia. Of course the record is something entirely other than glamorous or even smoothly-produced, but nicely kinky against the grain. And then these lyrics: crowded with alien angels, enamored onions, bone-eating maggots and naked maidens. You don't hear such lyrics every day. In a way, this is (power) pop for people, who don't actually like to listen to pop music. And getting that right is not easy.
by Bill Kopp
2012 sees the release of a new self-titled album from Three Minute Tease, a trio comprising Anton Barbeau (vocals, guitars, keyboards) plus Windsor and Metcalfe. And hearing the resulting music may cause listeners to wonder why this collaboration hasn't occurred before.
The rhythm section sound like themselves, yes: in particular, Metcalfe's blobbing bass lines (which sometimes sound a bit like Moog bass) acts as much as a melodic device as they do part of the rhythmic foundation of the music. But the songwriting—ten Barbeau originals—is strictly Anton Barbeau. The pairing is is natural and organic throughout the album. "Love is Onion" is anchored by a bass line straight out of Revolver, but the tasty analog (or analog-sounding) synth lines give it a more timeless feel. And Barbeau's overdubbed vocal harmonies—a hallmark of his music—up the hook factor.
Windsor's clattering drums provide an intriguing counterpoint to the moody acoustic vibe of "Milko II," and Metcalfe's fretless only increases the song's lovely, melancholy ambience. The nervy "Thanks for Lifting My Leg" is manic in a way that recalls Robyn Hitchcock's "The Yip Song." And Barbeau's snaky lead guitar figure is irresistible. For "Dust Beneath My Wings" the trio serves up a more intimate, unadorned arrangement, and in doing so they showcase the fact that Three Minute Tease is an album full of varied texture, but one that hangs together nicely. Some tasty cello work adds yet another level of interest.
With a song title like "My Potato," it's a safe bet that things are taking a turn toward Hitchcock-style impressionistic lyrical concerns. But Barbeau's not aping anyone; he's his own man. Echoey piano is the centerpiece of "These Alien Angels," and once again, Metcalfe's fretless bass—here used as a melodic counterpoint providing fill licks—is nothing short of inspired.
I'm a sucker for anything with Mellotron on it, and the vocal chorus 'Tron work on "Sensual Pleasure of Pie" is delightful. Three, sometimes four melody lines all unwind at once on this multilayered tune. "Dig My Bones" focuses on Barbeau's slightly idiosyncratic vocal delivery; his singing is perhaps an acquired taste, but said taste is well worth acquiring. The stately "Up On the Moon" is the slowest track on Three Minute Tease, but it's engaging both musically and lyrically.
The album wraps up officially with the psych-campfire singalong style "Queen of Apples"—there are a number of food references on Three Minute Tease—and again, Barbeau's trademark balance of commercial and quirky is on display. A pair of unlisted bonus tracks—one a snippet, one a dub remix—are both worthwhile; neither feels tacked-on.
Here's hoping that Three Minute Tease isn't just a tease, so to speak, and that the trio of Barbeau, Metcalfe and Windsor will follow up with another album of similar character and quality.
PETERBOROUGH EVENING TELEGRAPH
Cult singer-songwriter Anton Barbeau has teamed up with former Soft Boys Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor. Recorded in the Cambridgeshire countryside, the music is mad, but fun, psych pop that will appeal to the fans of other mavericks such as Julian Cope.
by Duncan Fletcher
Got a favourite song with the word onion in the title? The Beatles' Glass Onion maybe? Green Onions? What about Cheese And Onions by The Rutles? OK, there's not that many to choose from I guess. Right up there with the best of them is Love Is Onion, the opening track on this eponymous album from Three Minute Tease. A perfectly constructed piece of psych-pop, with spiralling raga guitar scales, mid '60s McCartney bass-line, and best of all, cryptically engaging lyrics that challenge the very notion of what pop music can say, and how it might say it.
Led by Sacramento born songwriter Anton Barbeau, and ably abetted by former Soft Boys Andy Metcalfe (bass) and Morris Windsor (drums), Three Minute Tease are proof that great pop is no longer simply the property of youth. In fact, if anything Barbeau's knack of knocking out ever so slightly lysergic guitar pop has been perfected by years of relative obscurity. He could well be the greatest cult songwriter that you've yet to hear. I previously reviewed Anton Barbeau's career overview compilation Empire Of Potential (to read my review click here). Whereas that album by its very nature was something of a sonic shapeshifter and showcased different eras of Barbeau's long career, this latest album benefits from it's coherent band sound. OK, so it breaks no new ground musically but then why should it? It's sweetly melodic and accessible but spiked by the acidity of Barbeau's top notch lyrics.
It's hard to resist song titles such as the previously mentioned Love Is Onion, Thanks For Lifting My Leg and Sensual Pleasure Of Pie. And with cryptic mentions of Cuban heels, The Beatles, Jan & Dean and Norman Mailer you can be sure you're in the company of a unique songsmith, a rare commodity these days. Like all the best art (and drugs) it may change the way you look at the world, and you may never be the same again. But in a good way, and without a nasty taste in your mouth come morning time.
by Simon Lewis
On paper, the pairing of Anton Barbeau and The Soft Boys' rhythm section of Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor seems like an excellent idea—and thankfully it is, as the rather excellent psych-pop nuggets on this release reveal. Managing to sharpen the sweeter edges of Anton's songs, without reaching the vitriolic heights of some of Robyn Hitchcock's early output, there is a solidness within that allows the songs to take off without becoming lost in their own ideas, grounded and softly lysergic at the same time.
On the wonderful opener, “Love is Onion,” there is a whiff of patchouli, a splash of day-glo and a big smile, a warm and fluid bass line holding the song together, whilst some fine lead guitar from Nick Saloman only adds to the quality. The excellent foundations are further cemented on “Milko II,” a sad and moody affair, bitter sweet in its delivery, a mix of 1970 Floyd and the Beatles, the drums giving the song its heartbeat with cool precision.
Slightly sillier and surreal “Thanks for Lifting my Leg” is a rockin' affair that needs volume, the lyrics leaving you guessing what is coming next, whilst “Dust Beneath my Wings” is a beautiful ditty, that has a hint of The Egyptians in its groove and construction, a good thing to these ears.
Stepping into 1970 “My Potato” could be a hit single if the band happen to have access to a time machine, (which they obviously don't or I would be reviewing a re-issue), so catchy is the tune, getting your feet tapping and your mouth grinning with happiness. With a softly spoken piano refrain, “These Alien Angels” is a delight that fades far too soon, the mood broken by “Sensual Pleasure of Pie” which comes on like a outtake from Sgt Pepper, before turning into a classy tune about pies and their wonder, possibly. After the loveliness of “Dig My Bones”, a tune where the lyrics are at odds with the melody, “Up on the Moon” is a slowly twisting thing of beauty, simple and very effective, before the album wraps up with “Queen of Apples” another surreal ditty that is arranged perfectly, filled with sunshine and a joy to hear.
With all the songs written by Mr Barbeau, there is a cohesiveness to this collection, the songs some of the finest I have heard from the man, the band enjoying themselves with the experience of the players ensuring everything is as it should be, creating a damn fine album for lovers of melodic psych with a twist of weird. Perfect for sunny afternoons, this also sound great whilst driving, especially if you fancy singing along as the scenery rolls by.
Despite arriving under the new band name of Three Minute Tease, this eponymous album is the product of none other than Anton Barbeau and his regular band mates, Morris Windsor and Andy Metcalfe. As such the usual warped and eclectic styles are present, psychedelics, trippy, retro pop, space rock, spaced rock—all packaged with wit and humour in a rich, high gloss coating.
Just a bit of name dropping helps to frame the vibe of the band, as well as Anton’s extensive back catalogue as a reference point, the rhythm sections time served in the likes of Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians, The Soft Boys and Squeeze is no small acknowledgement and with Nick "Bevis Frond" Saloman and John Ouin of Stornoway also helping out, the pedigree of the project is beyond doubt.
Kicking in with a great slice of retro power-pop, "Love is Onion" is a worthy starting point, neatly introducing and encapsulating what the band do, a psychedelic golden mean for what is to come. Deviations from that template take us into some very interesting places; be it the lilting balladry of "Up on the Moon," searing, fuzzed out space rock on "Thanks For Lifting My Leg" or the acid-trip atmospherics of "These Alien Angels," everything you would expect from such a collection of cult musicians is there.
Three Minute Tease sculpt musical landscapes that seem peppered with the trippy vibes of an idealised hippy dreamtime. Stoner pop fashioned with big harmonies, warped guitars, fantastical lyrical imagery, flower power ethics and eastern flavours. Some may chose to see it as retrospective but wouldn’t it be nice to see it as some sort of revival?
For all the backward glancing references, from Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd, drug-era Beatles to Julian Cope and Andy Partridge, there is accessibility to the music, in a perfect world songs like "Dig My Bones" would have no problem reaching a mainstream audience. For now though the band seem set to remain the underground record collector and local gig goers best kept secret. In some ways it’s a bit of an injustice but those in the know do get to keep Three Minute Tease as their own little secret. Maybe obscurity is the best thing to happen to music to ensure its survival. Just a thought.
PENNY BLACK MUSIC
by Andy Cassidy
Three Minute Tease is to cult musicians what Crosby Stills Nash and Young were to the late 60's Topanga Canyon scene. The band is a collaboration between perennial cult favourite Anton Barbeau, Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor and, I'm pleased to say, they live up to the hype.
Recorded "in the wilds of Cambridgeshire," this is the trio's first album together, and it's a riot of psychedelic pop. Opening track 'Love is Onion' is a bouncy, rocky number with great guitar work from Nick Saloman and a neat vocal from Barbeau.
'Milko II' has a real George Harrison vibe, with Barbeau's vocal imitating Harrison's laconic vocal style, just hanging on the back of the beat. It's a quieter number than its predecessor, and the pared down production highlights the terrific rhythm section.
Things get a little more lively on 'Thanks for Lifting My Leg' which sounds like Kula Shaker playing the Monkees. For me, the best song on the album is 'Dust Beneath my Wings', with the lyric "Love, it's the reason that we're here" perfectly illustrating Barbeau's post-hippy sensibilities. Another highlight is 'These Alien Angels', an atmospheric piece with swirling background textures and a dreamy lyric and trippy vocal.
'Sensual Pleasure of Pie' has a vaguely Eastern feel to it, while 'Up On the Moon' is a great slice of power pop splendour. The album closes with the lively 'Queen of Apples', a song that could be lifted straight from the Pugwash songbook (there is a surprise bonus track or two, but I'll let you discover them for yourself!).
This is a great debut from what promises to be a fantastic collaboration. It seems there is no limit to Barbeau's creativity, and in Metcalfe and Windsor he has found two willing partners in pop. There are flashes of Andy Partridge, Syd Barrett and Duncan Maitland throughout this album—put simply, it's grown-up pop music at its best. The genre may not be to everyone's taste, but I personally enjoyed it a great deal.
by Jeff Penczak
This new trio features the Soft Boys/Egyptians' rhythm section behind cult loon Anton Barbeau on 10 fluttering pop-psych psalms. 'Love Is Onion' may feature the world's first backwards mellotron (Nick 'Bevis Frond' Saloman's on there too), 'Milko II' finds a nostalgic John Lennon singing a misheard Hot Chocolate lyric, and 'Dust Beneath My Wings' is a heart-lifting love song. Of course, Ant's surreal sense of humour permeates everything and pure power pop is the order of the day. Who else could get us humming about onions, potatoes, pot brownies, apples, alien angels and the sensual pleasure of pie?
Ant's released about 20 gems like this over the past two decades, so if you've never experienced his musical cornucopia, this is a good place to jump in and enjoy the water. Fans of intellectual pop with a side order of Julian Cope or Robyn Hitchcock will find this right up their alley.