Despite a cheerfully self-deprecating stance, London’s Barracudas offered quite an enjoyable sentimental journey through assorted American traditions on Drop Out.
Some tunes plunged headlong into dense, ringing folk-rock – see Violent Times or I Saw My Death in a Dream Last Night for an update of The Byrds on a gloomy day.
Surf tunes like Summer Fun and His Last Summer tried a little too hard for laughs to overcome fundamental flimsiness, but were fun and couldn’t be faulted on attitude.
After abandoning a second album (four tracks from which were salvaged and released as House of Kicks) and losing drummer Nick Turner to the nascent Lords of the New Church, singer Jeremy Gluck and guitarist Robin Wills assembled a new Barracudas and recorded the wonderful Mean Time, produced by Pete Gage (ex-Vinegar Joe), who also added evocative keyboards to the LP.
Reclaiming more than half of the unreleased album’s songs, The Barracudas here sounded like a younger Flamin’ Groovies.
In fact, this five-piece line-up – easily The Barracudas’ best – featured ex-Groovie guitarist Chris Wilson. An effortless and catchy ’60sish blend of punky pop, vintage Rock & Roll, mock Merseybeat, snarly mild psychedelia and Byrdsy 12-string folk-rock.
The 1983 live LP, packaged and recorded so amateurishly as to resemble a bootleg, had a few original songs from the two preceding albums but mostly consisted of covers like Seven and Seven Is, You’re Gonna Miss Me and Fortunate Son. The performances rocked out enthusiastically, but the miserable sound quality was an insurmountable obstacle to enjoyment.
After making a third album, Endeavour to Persevere, The Barracudas disbanded at the end of 1984.
While assorted European labels issued compilations (I Wish It Could Be 1965 Again), outtake collections (The Big Gap) and archival concert albums (Live in Madrid, a terrible 1984 show but with better sound than the French live LP), Gluck made a musically unrelated solo LP in collaboration with Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks (both ex-Swell Maps), Rowland S. Howard (Birthday Party) and Gun Club leader Jeffrey Lee Pierce (on guitar).
Various permutations of that gang played Gluck/Sudden compositions in simple recordings that had a nice, casual feel.
Stylistic variety – from acoustic guitars to near-noise – kept I Knew Buffalo Bill interesting, but Gluck’s artless voice didn’t really suit the material. The same crew later reassembled to cut an EP, Burning Skulls Rise.
For his part, Wills made a pair of albums with a group called The Fortunate Sons (originally a trio, but later a quartet with Chris Wilson), whose bassist wound up in The Barracudas when Wills and Gluck decided to restart the band in early 1989. The first order of business was to polish up the tapes of the lost second album from 1982.
House of Kicks‘ belated release as Garbage Dump wasn’t exactly the Rosetta Stone of 80s music, but it was a potent dose of solid garage rock, albeit without the same tuneful charm as Mean Time (with which it shared eight songs).
Overall, the biggest failings were the vocals, which were hoarsely unattractive and rather weak in the harmony department, and the unimaginative, overly nostalgic production style. The World’s A Burn was a six-track compilation of singles.