Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Phil Spector used to be known for his Wall of Sound until he may or may not have killed a young lady. This wall was often a signifier of something outrageously happy in its tumultuousness, in its hugeness, in its abundance. It was a channel-upon-channel assault on the ears, slicking the hair back with slab after slab of guitar and vocal, harmonies and melody lines never wanting to sound thin or slacking. In excess, these sounds, piled on top of each other like a scrum, were paradise illuminated, not a paradoxical annoyance or a drowning of all of the accents and tinctures. It was a symphonic smothering that was welcomed and marveled at under the hood of headphones and inside a room that could hold all of the various assailants. For music nerds, this is largely a production trick used on the final product to give it five legs and a dozen arms, four times as many mouths.
When the wall of sound happens to be a representative conglomeration of disappointments and jiltings, smug little slaps in the face or invisible slightings of any of a number of origins, it's not as cute or as endearing. It becomes a form of the doldrums and reminiscent of what could be tinnitus, a loss of most of it, the ransacking of spirit and goodness. The wall of sound becomes a wall of brick hard stubborn ugliness that sometimes gets mistaken as the most vogue fashion of the time.
We Barbarians are creatures from a sunny town with a disposition toward the rottenness and evil that should give everyone shivers and hives, but regularly just gives people vacant signs and mild indigestion. They live with it. They work with it. They sleep with it and they even make soulless love to it when it talks sweetly enough - some people have no pride, no time for pride, just vacuous wish fulfillment. Its sweet and ours is of dramatically different humidity and color most of the time. The Long Beach, California, trio explore the contradictions that will be the lasting impressions of the 21st century for as long as there are lasting impressions to be observed. Whether or not all of the lyrics that David Quon pens are reactionary or autobiographical, they are marked by so many transferrable ideas from head to bigger world that they may as well be holding hands and skipping rocks together. They feel as one waning, august light that isn't enough to read by, but it's enough not to trip, fall and break your teeth out.
There seems to be a scholar's understanding of the hypocritical pageantry that accompanies nearly every sentence anyone utters. There are wars that need solving and selfishness that needs definition, but that's a luxury that no one appears to be getting anytime soon in the band's debut album In The Doldrums, self-released on a label established by their roommates Matt Maust and Nathan Willett of Cold War Kids. Once or twice, there's the hint that a lair of snakes is nested inside Quon's head - as the air and mood outside those ears becomes a storm cloud of twisters and deadly light, swarming to batter the shutters. A brainwashing still, sometimes makes one feel clean, it seems to be saying - a sand storm often smoothes things over and the pinking of the skin will diminish if you can give it some time. It's what the masses try to do - let the scars get there and then it's all just a memory. Quon sings, "If I was just bare bones, would you leave me skinned alive?...I think you would/Spineless renegade with your tail between your legs," on "Yesmen and Bumsuckers" and boy, doesn't that describe almost everyone we know. The benevolence that we'd love to see invested in, couldn't be further from the thoughts of most and it's where we're taken most frequently when the Barbarians check in. Could just be darkness if there wasn't so much to live for in everything they're singing of.
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