December 23, 2004

Listening Log: Les Barker

No one makes me laugh louder than this British rhyming satirist whose routines are mostly (in my experience) recorded live in front of convulsed audiences. His material ranges from Lewis Carroll-like distortions of logic (DEJA VU, in which he proves that it's impossible to experience deja vu for the first time, and AN INFINITE NUMBER OF OCCASIONAL TABLES) to pet owners' follies (GUIDE CATS FOR THE BLIND and THE WAR ON TERRIER—the title track of his new album) to British history and behavior (THE CRAWL OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE and HAVE YOU HEARD ANY NEWS OF THE ICEBERG?).

Barker's Manchester accent adds a contrasting layer of homeyness to the highbrow absurdities.

A good, though slim, best-of is PROBABLY THE BEST ALBUM EVER MADE BY ANYBODY IN OUR STREET. A tribute album, GUIDE CATS FOR THE BLIND, has Barker himself performing the title cut and DEJA VU, with other Brit singers and speakers doing 38 more of his best.

Barker's music publishing company, by the way, is named Mrs. Ackroyd Music, after his deceased dog.