Brendan Fowler, AKA BARR, is a sensitive guy who
thinks about stuff quite intensely. He's interested in
life, relationships, philosophies, ideas and
art, and what it all means. Like most of us. So he
questions these things heavily. But unlike most of us, he uses repeated,
out-of-place phrases, awkward, confusing dialogue and vicious emotional outbursts
to shake up us up and make us take another look at our lives.
He speaks, sounding nasal, snotty, adolescent, sarcastic, conversational and like someone you
think you'd like to meet. He speaks, maybe raps, raps
white and whiny, alongside irresistible beats that
take days to clean from your brain. His words, full of
conviction, slip out with the blunt, filter-lacking
truthfulness of a child. Only he's not a child, so there's sophistication to what he has to say.
His compositions come off weird, arty and
experimental, like you want to write him off for trying
too hard, but he's not. His emotions are raw,
intense and real, executed so that you want to keep
listening. He tells you things that you already know,
or that you thought you knew, but never spent enough
time wondering about. It's too simple to be big, but too
much of something to be nothing.
"How do you start something? You start it," he answers
firmly and fittingly on the ominous, tumbling, hollow
beat-led opener, "A Cover." "How do you start
something? Rip something off? Cover your friend's
song? Or this song is a cover. This is a cover."
Fowler believes in motivation; he believes in
inspiration. He wants you to believe even when he
stumbles over his words, repeats himself unnecessarily
and checks to see if you're still there. Sometimes he
talks to you, sometimes he talks to someone else,
sometimes he speaks in narrative.
"Dad on the plane, why aren't you involved in your
son's life?" he asks on "Like, I Use to Like," the
"dad" sighing, sounding annoyed. "Do you hate your
son? Do you hate your own life? ... Dad, I hope you're
fully in the movie theaters workers union?"
"I don't even know what you're talking about," the
dad, or voice playing the dad, answers, sounding
"I hope you're in the movie theaters union, benefits
and everything, 'cause you sure are projecting pretty hard," Fowler
gives it up like the butt of a joke atop suspenseful
and infectious xylophone chimes.
And it's not the only mention of a father on BARR's
new album. "I have waited eight years to say this,"
Fowler begins, all choked up. "... But this
project even is based on a plan we had to do voice and
drums, father and son, awhile ago/ My father had a
beautiful wolf dog named Kodiak/ He gave him to the
shelter because he could not care for him anymore/
And I worried about Kodiak and was sad that maybe he'd
be put down and then my dad died.
"I sort of literally put off writing this/ ... He
died and he's dead/ What does that mean?/ What if it
wasn't that way? What if it wasn't that way?"
Fowler doesn't hide behind his art; he uses it to let
go and, without hesitation, let his thoughts and
feelings be known exactly as they were born, or maybe
they were born, not before, but in front of the mic.
"It's OK that I'm overwhelmed/ But I don't want to
ever remember this again/ Is it ridiculous to commit
this to a record?
"Feelings repeat and vary no matter how shitty and how
much we don't want to deal/ It's OK as a sentiment
and as a reminder and it is OK as if to purchase
this sentiment on iTunes for $.99/ Or it isn't too
short/ It is how long it is as a thought and a
"It is how long it is as a thought and a feeling," he
repeats, breaking to breathe it in, sounding more
convinced this time.
BARR's beats, and occasional keyboards, are raw and you can
dance to them, but only if you don't mind repeated
notes. They're raw and simple enough to keep his
forceful voice at the forefront, his words easily and
clearly deciphered. You follow his words like a book
on tape. His music, his words, his poetry they're not
meant for accompanying something else, like cooking
dinner or folding laundry. His words, his stories, are
self-assured and beat-up, maybe like a lot of us are,
and you can't avoid being drawn in by them and the
clever, hard-hitting music that accompanies them.
"How do you be in your body when you're so mad you
don't even want to be in your body?" Fowler asks,
dampened by knowing he'll never know on "Sing Sit
Singing." "I'm so sorry I take it upon myself to
realize that I cannot be all answers."
And he can't, but the way that he tries, the way that
through these musical scribbles he tries to tell you
everything without the filter that stops most of us
from telling too much, it's so purely human, it makes
you want to say more, makes you want to feel more.
As he shouts on "Anthems and All": "Always say them, always explode, don't
put it off,
never shut up."