Japan Times asked me to write a preview of the upcoming Little Barrie shows a few weeks ago. I’d interviewed Barrie Cadogan, the leader, in 2006, but I’m not sure that’s why they asked me; not even sure why they wanted a preview. In any case, I wrote it and had it in by the deadline, meaning one week prior to publication; then that afternoon received an email from the record co. saying that Barrie had canceled. Not surprising. Everyone’s canceling now. But I had to write something new, so more work. Turns out Barrie hadn’t canceled, or changed his mind, or whatever, but in any case he’s playing this week as scheduled but it’s too late to run the preview in the JT. So here it is for you Little Barrie fans, both of you. Waste not want not.
In 2005 Scottish pop guru Edwyn Collins called Barrie Cadogan “the best guitarist of his generation,” a compliment that would have meant more had it been quoted in the 70s, when technique was valued above all else. Since then the music called “rock” has atomized into so many sub-particles that chops have become secondary to originality of vision.
Cadogan’s music with his power trio Little Barrie doesn’t strive for much in the way of the new, even if he writes all their songs. When he first started playing in the northern English town of Nottingham, his material was old psychedelia and rhythm-and-blues. He absorbed these styles so completely that by the time he moved to London he had become exactly what Collins claimed he was. To make ends meet, Cadogan worked in a vintage guitar store, which is where he met not only Collins, the former leader of the 80s pop group Orange Juice, but other members of the British rock establishment. In England, at least, Cadogan is more famous as the tour axe man for Morrissey, Paul Weller, and Primal Scream.
Collins produced Little Barrie’s raucous 2005 debut album, We Are Little Barrie, which made the most of Cadogan’s personal idea of what dance music should sound like: “soul records with a rock n roll attitude.” Collins suffered a stroke while finishing up the album and wasn’t available for the sophomore effort, recorded in New York with hip-hop beatmaker Dan the Automator and Russell Simins of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, but he’s recovered enough to helm the newest long-player, King of the Waves, a title whose double meaning does a good job of selling its blend of surf guitar and radio-ready R&B.
Cadogan’s rep as a front man seems to have more traction in Japan. Waves was released here in December but has yet to see the light of day anywhere else. In fact, his upcoming Japan dates mark Little Barrie’s second trip to these shores in the last five months. And if that’s not enough, he’ll be here in August when Primal Scream presents its most famous work, Screamadelica, at Summer Sonic. Being the best guitarist of your generation may not mean as much as it used to, but it sure can keep you busy.
Little Barrie plays Shinsaibashi Club Quattro in Osaka on April 14 (7 p.m.; 6281-8181) and Ebisu Liquidroom in Tokyo on April 15 (7 p.m.; 3462-6969). Both shows cost ¥5,500 in advance.