Biting satire dressed as fop pop whimsy. Pretty Straight Guy is yet another gem from Brighton’s Barbara
Release Date: 19th May 2023
Label: Self Release
Formats: Download, Streaming
It’s Barbara time again, folks, and the band’s new single, Pretty Straight Guy, might just be their best yet! It’s reassuringly Barbara – as bright, buoyant and bouncy as any Barbarette could wish – but with a couple of twists that move Barbara on to a new patch of territory altogether.
Firstly, Pretty Straight Guy is Barbara’s first deep foray into disco-pop and, secondly – and perhaps even more significantly – the joyful whimsy that illuminates every Barbara song is, this time, here as a veneer that only just manages to cover the biting satire of the song’s lyrics.
Let’s deal with that disco vibe first. Barbara are only too happy to acknowledge the influence that heroes such as The Kinks, The Beatles, Abba, ELO and others continue to have upon their music. For myself, I’ve often remarked how much I detect the sound of Sparks, Queen and 10cc in their tunes. This time around, it’s definitely ELO and Abba – with a splash of Heart of Glass Blondie that rise to the surface in a bright, bubbly number that is as engaging as it is energizing. The tune fairly romps along in a way that would enrapture the white-suited groovers at the 2001 Odyssey Disco, especially when Dean Llewellyn’s neat slices of crunchy, Queen-like guitar join the mix.
But, for me, it’s the lyrics that make Pretty Straight Guy such an outstanding track. As biting as anything that Ray Davies or even John Lennon ever committed to paper, the lyrics are a stinging swipe at the type of public figure that, over the past few years, has managed, by connivance, to gain public trust. Keyboardist and co-author Henry Tydeman takes up the story: “In recent times, there do seem to have been an awful lot of manipulative, deceitful people in positions of power and influence… They’re often quite brazen in their lying, and in their downright nastiness, but the rather depressing thing is that, in spite of it all, people seem to like them, and they want to follow them, and even vote for them! Pretty Straight Guy is a bit of satire aimed at the kind of politician or media personality who pretends to be standing up for ordinary people, but who is, in fact, completely self-obsessed and utterly cynical in all they say and do. There are quite a few of them about, it seems.”
Indeed there are – and I’m so pleased that they’ve been called out in such a succinct and humorous way, with lines like: “There’s a shady looking fella on the television, Mocking as a mocking bird, And there’s a certain type of citizen who pities him and hanging on his every word” and “He won’t use no pseudonym, There’s nothing you can think of will embarrass him.” We all know who they’re referring to…
And, if the words and music aren’t enough to satisfy (and surely they are…,) then there’s an absolutely wonderful video to accompany the package. Packed with pastoral English scenes that could have been taken directly from The Comic Strip’s Five Go Mad in Dorset, the Brothers Tydeman combine a tandem ride with nifty footwork, 60s-styled high jinks around a tree and tea on the lawn to make a video that’s destined to be watched over and again by those of us in the Barbara know.
Produced by Paul Steel (Empire of the Sun, Mika), Pretty Straight Guy is Barbara at their very, very best. Shindig Magazine recently wrote: “Hooky, wide-eyed slices of superpop are what you get when talented types fall in love with the greats.” Those few words fit Barbara to a “T” and Pretty Straight Guy is a song that will only enhance those sentiments. I’m sure that those lucky enough to have been at The Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Friday 12th May to see Barbara open for Haircut 100 will heartily agree.
Watch that marvelous video to Pretty Straight Guy here: