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Sunday, May 15, 2005

LISTENING POST

LIVE

Little Barrie


The importance of the less-is-more principle waxes and wanes in popular music, but Little Barrie, a new power trio from England, seems to understand it better than most rock minimalists do these days. Though the group refers to its sound as "stripped-down," they're only talking about the instrumentation and the arrangements. As a matter of fact, each instrument and vocal is practically dripping with calculated attitude, a gambit that makes them sound big but somehow manages to avoid excess.

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It helps a lot that Barrie Cadogan is an excellent guitarist. Power-pop veteran Edwyn Collins, who produced the group's debut, "We Are Little Barrie," calls him "the best guitarist of his generation," and when Morrissey's own axe man fell ill on the eve of his big tour last year, Cadogan stepped in and saved the day. But the main reason for the group's success is the uncommon empathy that Cadogan receives from his two partners, especially in the form of drummer Wayne Fullwood's manic background vocals.

Cadogan's own nasal singing recalls the sneering insouciance that Dylan tossed off during his Judas phase, but with a lot more grease on the high end. Like G. Love without the hip-hop affectations, Little Barrie trades in funky soul and blues that sounds best in an acoustic setting but can still stand up to effects pedals and Marshall amplifiers if the need presents itself, though it probably won't when they come to Tokyo next month for a one-off showcase in a very small Harajuku venue. If you miss that, you can catch them in August when they appear at Summer Sonic '05. Or you can pick up a special edition of their debut that will be released in late June with a free 40-minute performance DVD attached. Little Barrie comes in all sizes.

Little Barrie: June 6, 7 p.m., Harajuku Astro Hall, Tokyo. Tickets are 3,900 yen. For more information, call Creativeman at (03) 5466-0777.


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