When you hear of a band named Don’s Mobile Barbers, you automatically think ‘wacky’. When you then discover that the duo play the drums, the guitar, two keyboards and sing all at the same time, it’s impossible to shake off the notion that this is the novelty band from hell.
Yet you’d be very wrong. Boom Times is the third album from the Leicestershire duo, and is 33 minutes of intense, serious music, the sort that could sit quite happily next to Death Cab For Cutie, Grandaddy and the more laid back moments of Spiritualized in the ‘spacey pop’ area of your record collection.
The unique dynamic of Don’s Mobile Barbers give the band an unusual sound – after all, there can’t be many groups around whose members play two instruments at once. Guitar riffs are laid down on top of doomy keyboard chords, while Rob Dobson’s elegiac vocals add some much needed sweetness. At first listen, it’s a bit too much to take in, but after a couple of plays you realise you’re slowly falling in love.
There’s just the right measure of light and shade here. Musically, it may sound a bit heavy going and intense at times, but every so often a dose of sweetness is injected. “In these boom times, there’s something that can save us” intones the opening See You In, and it could act as a motto for the album as a whole.
Start It All Again appears to be about coming to terms with the end of a relationship (“best to forget you exist, start all over again”), but it’s one of the more plodding tracks here. He’s Heading Back Into Town is more successful, having something of the OK Computer-era Radiohead about it.
Tried To Explain is more upbeat than the rest of the album and makes a nice change from the rather melancholic atmosphere elsewhere. It’s a lovely, light little pop tune with a definite debt to the Beach Boys. Similarly, one of the best tracks here, Can’t Get Away With Anything mixes a lovely keyboard riff to a driving rock song – the result is very contagious.
If there’s a criticism to be made here, it’s the lack of variety – it all starts to wash over you after a while, but at least the album’s short running time means that it never outstays its welcome.
At times, Boom Times reminds one of last year’s opus by My Computer, No CV, yet it lacks that record’s sense of daring inventiveness. This is a good album, but you get the impression it could be much more than that. Yet this is only their third record in just two years, and there’s enough here to suggest that there’s a lot more to come from Don’s Mobile Barbers.