Album Review by Jonathan Dyer
When SIZER BARKER were first touted by the music industry as the ‘next big thing’, legendary large underpant wearer John Major was clinging onto his last few months in charge of a nation slowly coming round from the anaesthetised haze of Britpop. Fast forward the best part of a decade, and the grand total of one single from the quirky Scousers has troubled the nation’s airwaves. Even those über-lethargic 20th century icons the Stone Roses managed to shoehorn their entire career into a shorter space of time.
So what kept them? There isn’t enough space here to detail the nightmares suffered by frontman Carl Brown and his retinue between then and now, but suffice to say that having a single about being afraid in Manhattan slated for release three days after September 11th 2001 gives some idea of the kind of luck the band have endured. Brown had evidently thrown the proverbial hand grenade into a mirror factory during a previous life.
Given the lack of anything resembling a slice of good fortune and how much the musical landscape has altered since the band started penning what has finally become their debut album, it is something of a minor miracle that HOTEL JUICY PARLOUR has finally seen the light of day.
Not surprisingly, in places things sound a little dated – the album brings to mind the Boo Radleys circa “Giant Steps” and the ‘throw in the kitchen sink and we’ll play that too’ ethos of The Coral and British Sea Power. But hidden amongst the musical cobwebs there is a terrific album that surprises and delights with every listen. From FLING FATALE, in which Brown growls plaintively over a myriad of samples, strings and electronic feedback to BRIGHT HOPE, where his lovelorn vocals sound like a man whose childhood sweetheart has been kidnapped by one of Dr. Who’s adversaries via the horn-laden summertime rush of A BOY, A JET, Brown and SIZER BARKER run riot with influences from the Beach Boys to the Flaming Lips with a sprinkling of Aphex Twin, doing a near-perfect job of reminding you how diverse and glorious pop music can be in the right pair of hands.
The ‘magpie in John Peel’s record collection’ approach may be a little too eclectic for some, and aside of the first single DAY BY DAY it is difficult to find anything commercial enough on the album that is likely to receive the airplay that the band both need and deserve. That said, every credit to SIZER BARKER for making it this far and producing a record as enjoyable as this on the way. We can only hope that Brown is studiously avoiding black cats and staying on the right side of any ladders he encounters so that we don’t have to wait 8 years for the next one.