Hotel Juicy Parlour has been a long while in the making for Liverpool trio Sizer Barker. Carl Brown was on the verge of breaking through several times in the 90s, enjoying close links with David Gray, Space and Terry Hall, and had a great new song in Something In The Park due for release on September 14th 2001. Unfortunately for him the track contained lyrics about being afraid in Manhattan, a cruel twist of luck.
No matter – here they are at last, the band with a curious name that comes from a headstone that turned Brown’s eye in a Liverpool cemetery in 1996. Their debut album has melody in abundance and is a record that could only have been made in Liverpool. Having said that it still finds a way to present good pop songs in a different light.
The three-piece that was once five comprise Maria Hughes on bass, Tim Bruzon on guitar and Carl Brown as the front man. His frequently vocoded voice has elements of Gray, Ian McCulloch and occasionally Elvis Costello. The band’s style is weird and wonderful, with seemingly straight-laced pop songs dressed with harmonica (Blue Ocean, Yellow Sun), rasping trombone (A Boy A Jet) and even a recorder solo that isn’t as silly as it sounds, forming the central section to Something In The Park. As you’ll have gathered, textures are imaginative with a subtle use of keyboard electronics and brightly coloured guitar strumming.
At their best, Sizer Barker are life-affirming, but their music has a dark underbelly that haunts even the most uplifting songs. Blue Ocean, Yellow Sun, a couplet rhymed with “new hope for everyone”, pays an inescapable homage to Liverpool’s four favourite sons, but follows this with the unexpected and gorgeously chromatic lyric “rain rain rain will come”, perfectly capturing the bittersweet nature of the record. A Boy A Jet is joyously upbeat, with the missive “say you’re mine and we’ll be fine again”.
The record’s ebb and flow is evident, with fast leading to slow and joy leading to sorrow. However the overall impression is that the good prevails, as during Something In The Park, where Brown’s lyric says “forget the days when you were uncertain, you know you’re gonna make it through”. And if there’s a song with which to start every day it should be Transmission Land, a euphoric vocal.
Now the band are under Peter Gabriel‘s wing on the PRE label it looks like bright things lie ahead. “The hotel juicy parlour, thought we’d never get there,” sings Brown on the title track. Well they have finally made it, and it looks like they’re booked in for a long stay.