Death Express is the fifth album from Nottingham rockers Little Barrie, and the first that they have produced themselves, recorded in their practice space in Hornsey using two ancient MacBooks and an old tape machine. The album was kick started when the band were invited to provide incidental music for the US hit TV show, Better Call Saul. They had already recorded the theme tune, which appears here as a bonus track, but with no time to book a studio, they were forced to do everything by themselves. Needless to say they liked how it turned out.
The result is a stripped down record with a raw vibrancy lacking from a lot of the highly produced albums you get these days. There's an urgency to it, driven along by Virgil Howe's pulsating beats, his background in drum and bass coming to the fore, and Lewis Wharton's frenetic bass. Barrie Cadogan's guitar playing is a fusion of 60s, 70s and 90s rock, flashy at times, pared back at others, but never goes over the top. It always serves the music.
There are some fantastic songs on display. I5CA was released as a single in June, and it sets a high standard early on. The songs documents their tour of the American West Coast, practically living on the I5. It has a surprising spontaneity to it, and feels like a 70s rock vocal playing over a hip-hop track. Love or Love with its vigorous drum beats, and grunge-like vocals, is another highlight. The title track is arguably the highpoint though. It's a bit of a different electronica sound, but it's a pounding fast paced song that carries you along with it, and is just crying out to be played over a car chase film sequence.
They've been a bit of a cult underground band for many years, and it's never easy to climb out of that pigeonhole. While Little Barrie may not yet be household names, on this form they're surely going to get there.
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