When I think of LA-based musician cum artists—perhaps gangly and rambling sweaty raps in mushrooming punk clubs underneath the city’s hood of smog—I can picture Brendan Fowler, moniker BARR, with clarity. In one take I can tell that Summary is more art project than album in the rap or rock sense, and were I to judge solely by Fowler’s spoken word performance here rather than by his other, more electro outfits like Car Clutch and New England Roses, I would call him an artist as opposed to musician. With his resume as performer, indie label founder, curator and alternative quarterly editor, it’s plain that BARR is deep in the scene. You can easily project a kid in sunglasses buzzing rhymes in a gallery space about the time he got wrecked on valium with a long-haired girl and poured out his heart until the sun broke. He’s always there, recounting that dawning conversation to and for you to in order to reveal something vital that just has to be shared. And maybe it is artful, but it kind of makes you cringe because it is entirely too earnest or even obvious. Those artists, sometimes they share too much.
On Summary, BARR’s follow-up on 5RC to 2005’s Beyond Reinforced Jewel Case, I would call the tracks a mundane blitzkrieg if I didn’t think his angle was so kindly. The sounds on BARR’s scribbled tome to the eager confusion of youth range from wistful piano balladry to jolly drum and bass stutterings, backing up his kind of anecdotal group hug. On it he talks assiduously about a lot of things, sometimes painting the tale of a friend who is tired of the world but whom the world needs and how his intent is to try and support their will as much as he can, a warmth BARR delivers that is sweet and never aloof. Other songs dawdle without reasonable abridgement, discussing what specific route he took while traveling Europe and how that sojourn is perfectly illustrative of this “Armageddon breakup” he once had, revealing the mess of a rambling drift through his memory stream. The fuzzy autobiography is heartfelt and generally pleasant, but not necessarily enthralling or more than trivial in its honesty. This unavoidable pitfall is what I would call Summary‘s only clear failure.
However, BARR does have the humor to cap his meandering inanities early in the game with the line “this song is the single and the single sucks,” so I think he realizes that his method is monotonous. In that case, maybe his art’s higher concept is in fact his need to spill all the details. Like BARR says, catharsis is real. Yet digesting it from the peripheries of the listener’s stance is a whole other obstacle.
Erase Errata – Other Animals
Slint – Tweez
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Etiquette