Suburban Obscurity:Barnes & Barnes
Artist: Barnes & Barnes
Song Notes: Thirteen Ugly Children Roll Gutterballs: Barnes & Barnes are one of my all-time favorite groups. They're most known for "Fish Heads", but they did a lot more than that, and many in a non-novelty vein. This is one of those songs. It's from the album Kodovoner, which was recorded in 1983... and just released a month ago. After recording two reasonably popular albums for Rhino records, Voobaha and Spazchow, Barnes & Barnes (a/k/a Bill Mumy and Robert Haimer) saw an ad in a music trade magazine for an upcoming imprint on CBS, "Boulevard Records" which said that if they liked your demo tape, they'd give you a record. They thought it sounded promising, so they gave it a shot—and Boulevard liked the tape, and so preparations were made for an album. An EP was released (Soak It Up), although it didn't sell very well. Part of the problem was that Barnes & Barnes were moving in a less comedy direction and more to a normal New Wave band, which people weren't expecting. (The EP, however, was excellent!) Due to the poor sales, though, the intended full-length follow-up had been locked in the vaults, never to come out. Barnes & Barnes went back to Rhino, and put out the (superb) Amazing Adult Fantasy, an album that was much more of a mix between straight New Wave songs ("Don't You Wanna Go To The Moon" by all rights should have been a hit single and featured a whole host of famous singers singing harmonies, including Steve Perry from Journey and Dewey Bunnell from America) and comedy numbers ("ZZ Top Beard" and "The Little Man" were both favorites on KROQ and the Dr. Demento show). (The next album, Sicks, however, was a Rhino-Mandated move back to the sound of Voobaha and Spazchow -- though there's definitely a sense of evolution on those songs as well.)
Anyway, though, Kodovoner had a difficult birthing—even after being locked away, for a while it was thought that CBS had lost the master tapes! After several years, however, they were found, and Robert Haimer cleaned them up for a release last year. (Then it was thought that the masters to Soak It Up were lost in the vaults and they thought they'd have to master those tracks from a pristine vinyl copy of the EP—on the 1989 best-of Zabagabee, a different version without the live drums of the title track had to be included; I think the Soak It Up masters were also found for the new release; either way, though, they sound superb; Robert Haimer is a magician. (On the reissue of Voobaha, one of the bonus tracks came from a tape that was completely stuck together—he had to bake the tape (this isn't a special code for anything—he actually had to put the tape in an oven for 3 minutes at 300 degrees!) to get it to play.. and yet, on the CD, it sounds perfect -- you wouldn't even know!)
As for this song, well, as I wrote in a review of the new reissue of Kodovoner, "Suburban Obscurity" is basically the track I would point to as the reason why the record executives at Boulevard were wrong—even if the rest of the album sucked (which it doesn't!), this song is the reason why it should have been released. But, hey, the rest of the album is outstanding too!
The almost-complete (Loozanteen hasn't been re-issued yet, and the earlier Greatest Hits compilation Zabagabee isn't going to be reissued, however all of the tracks on that are available on all of these CDs, and the Zabagabee-exclusive songs have been included as bonus tracks on the album reissues—so there's no NEED for Zabagabee to be re-released!) Barnes & Barnes discography is available at CoolCDs.com. You can find copies of Voobaha, Spazchow and Yeah.: The Essential Barnes & Barnes available in record stores, although you can only get Amazing Adult Fantasy, Kodovoner (which includes the Soak It Up EP, and like all of the CDs, loads of bonus tracks, rare photos and excellent liner notes by Art Barnes (Bill Mumy)) and Sicks through the website (along with the other three!). These are all EXCELLENT records and are must-buys. (Hell, I'm unemployed right now, and I got these the day they were announced! They're that good!)
Dub Club: Matt's 2005 Best Of -- Streets Named For New England Trees: If you get me started, I will go on and on about Barnes & Barnes. I pretty much adore them. And this song is a really cool one. I'm pretty sure I've ranted at length about the history of the Kodovoner album before, so I'll hold off this time, but all you need to know is that this track is great and that Barnes & Barnes, though they were best known for their novelty stuff, were excellent pop songsmiths. And here's a little slab of proof—vintage proof, aged to perfection for 22 years. - Rev. Syung Myung Me