Gary B and the Notions
How do We Explode
Modern Hymnal Records
Gary Barrett thankfully realizes that the marketing anxieties of indie rock’s past decade don’t matter. Whether or not “indie” sounds a certain way or accurately states an artist’s business philosophy doesn’t mean squat if the songs don’t stir a heart that oxygenates both booty and brain. Barrett—a local since the mid-1990s who today works solo as Your Imaginary Friend and with his full band the Notions—focuses on songs, not the online blather that sells “scenes.” And he makes unpopular pop/rock that minnows between the genre-unto-himself indelible songwriter (see: Vertical Slit/V-3’s late, great Jim Shepard) and the accidental party-as-a-verb pied piper (see: Robert Pollard), a sound that cares not what metadata keywords get attached to song files.
Even better, Barrett has a knack for putting hustling guitar hooks into almost collapsing songs. Ten of those jolts make up How Do We Explode, his second Notions full-length. From the Costello/Attractions-ish opener “The Shape of Distant Worlds” through the Kinks-y jitters of closer “Get Your Hands Off My Man,” Barrett adds a few guitar chords to a casually uptight rhythm section to hammer out immediately catchy mini-anthems to everyday disgruntlement. Album standouts “Lyndsy Fonseca” and “Back Pain Lozenge” capture that mirthful smirk best. The former feels like a gem of moony frustration as the song’s narrator documents the titular heroine’s bitchy facade and his utter defenseless to its charms, while the latter marries percussive stomp to the bittersweet pull of everyday disappointment: “This ain’t no social call,” Barrett blithely announces on bridge, the first part of a couplet that succinctly summarizes his songwriting’s allure: “Here comes the wrecking ball.”
Your Imaginary Friend plays the Hampden Hi-Fi Outdoor Series June 15. for more information, visit hampdenhifi.wordpress.com.