Off-kilter humor and an obsession with 1960s pop culture go hand-in-hand for musicians Icarus Peel and Mordecai Smyth. These English eccentrics have been releasing solo efforts over the years, and once joined forces in cover band called The Green Question Mark. They each contribute three songs to Barnburner, a recently released EP that’s available as a digital download as well as in a limited-edition blue vinyl version from Mega Dodo Records. The title Barnburner was most likely conceived with a touch of irony by its creators. There’s nothing extraordinary here; just some fun and catchy songs reminiscent of the original British Invasion.
“Almost Murder Ballad” is sort of a hybrid, as Peel takes on a song from Smyth’s 2011 release Sticky Tape And Rust, and turns it into a fractured but engaging duet with an uncredited female vocalist. “Crystal Jacqueline” is his flower child-infused tribute to a singer with that name who
also records for Mega Dodo. Smyth, whom I once designated as an honorary citizen of my hometown of Palatine (private joke), subverts the romantic sentiments of “Drifted Along” with a spooky keyboard arrangement. His melodic “Out In The Stars” is a drinking song with the feel of vintage Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Smyth laments the proliferation of vapid trend-followers with lines like, “Everywhere they grow like flowers/I can’t count them anymore” in his satiric “Plastic People.” The best track on Barnburner is Peel’s energetic “Aunty Powders Her Nose,” which serves as an authentic flashback to the psychedelic mid-1960s. There aren’t too many other ways you’ll hear a line like, “Wishing she had never seen that purple submarine.”