Music has always – well, ever since some cave man hit a hollow log with a leg bone from a mastodon and lamented the loss of his mate under his dinners foot – an emotional purgative. Part of the process has always been as an outlet for pleasure, pain, and all the emotional dots connected on the trip between the two. Projector would appear to be just that for Steve Barton, the front man from ‘80s Merseybeat /punk-like rock/ psychedelic/power pop band, Translator. Formed around the time that R.E.M was becoming popular, main stream radio found Translator to be a bit to intelligent with their oft times ironic and disturbing existentialist lyrics. But they found a home on alternative rock radio.
Formed in L.A. and signed to Howie Klein's independent label, 415 Records, on the strength of the demo tape they sent to college radio station KUSF: the loose and rambling yet laconic "Everywhere That I'm Not" has remained the band's signature tune. The song was featured on Translator's debut album Heartbeats & Triggers , which was recorded with the widely respected producer David Kahne. As a result of 415 Records' national distribution arrangement with Columbia Records the debut album received strong promotion and became an underground and College radio hit in 1982. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s Translator's music continued to have underground appeal and was featured on at least 3 different compilation albums during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2007 all four original albums were re-issued on CD by Wounded Bird Records with previously released bonus tracks.
Steve Barton also recorded four solo albums: The Boy Who Rode His Bike Around The World, Charm Offensive, Flicker Of Time and Gallery. The band for these albums consists of Steve on guitar and vocals, Robbie Rist on drums (Robbie is well-known for having played Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch – plus a long list of indie music and film work), and bassist Derrick Anderson (he is also the current bass player for The Bangles). They have been together for several years and provide the perfect band for Steve’s post-Translator songs.Projector is made up of songs that Steve wrote in the immediate aftermath of his dad’s death. Produced by friend,Marvin Etzioni, (Lone Justice co-founder) and recorded and mixed on tape. “I went over to Marvin’s house to play him some of the songs that I had written. He set up his 4-track cassette machine and I started to play. By the end of the night I had played 18 songs. He suggested that we make an album, and that I play all of the instruments. This was a big departure for me, as I have only made records with either Translator or with my solo band. I thought about it over a weekend and decided to say yes. We chose a studio where we could make the album on 2” reel-to-reel tape. We recorded and mixed in around 5 days. “
Released back on April 10, Projector is a deeply personal exploration of feelings and thoughts that are not only all over the map emotionally but also stylistically. The album has a stripped down feeling and a straight to the heart presentation. It’s a low-fi, off the cuff, musical journey that wears its heart on its sleeve and delivers the tunes warts and all, and because of that it has a beauty that stands apart from the the usual commercial pop offerings. Though it has that “unplugged” feeling, don’t think of it as a proto-punk unplugged offering as it doesn’t have that rehearsed-to-death, over produced type of recording. Rather it is served up in the manner of a promo. Of the way a song writer might try and pedal songs for other artists and producers and a team of engineers and studio executives and marketing geniuses to polish up as fodder for the masses.
From the opening track, which would have been at home on one of the Monkees ‘serious’ albums, “These 4 Walls” , to the rockabilly “Pie In The Face” and throughout the 12 tracks presented here, Barton seems to be more reviewing his musical life than holding a wake. There’s some great stuff here and more than anything the album grows on you the more you listen to it.
It’s the type of album that will suddenly creep into your consciousness long after you have removed the headsets. The title tune, “Projector”, a musical mash-up of Beach Boys meet Plastic Ono John Lennon is delivered in a raw, acoustic guitar thrashing ode to a one night stand. Film at eleven. “Bowie Girl” is a pop flavored, early Beatles flavored requiem to a violent relationship whose high points were in the dirty sheets.
Barton displays many influences from the Beatles to psychedelia, from ‘70s prog rock to ‘80s alt rock and the folk rock bands of the ‘60s and the’70s. And the album touches on stripped down garage, to street busker theatrics. I like this one a lot. give it a spin.
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved