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The Barlights

You Cannot Choose the Roads that Take You Home

(NRONE Records; US: 9 Nov 2010; UK: 8 Nov 2010)

Lighting up the Bars

Hey kids, have you ever wondered what early U2 would have sounded like if they hailed from England and not Ireland? Now’s your chance to find out! When you put on the sophomore album from the Barlights, a four-piece that hails from Norwich, England, you’ll hear that the opening cut, “Curtains”, is what you’d get if you spliced “Sunday Bloody Sunday” with a slowed-down version of the Walkmen’s “The Rat”. Yep, it’s an anthem that will have fists pumping in the air and Bic lighters out in full force. That’s not to say that the Barlights offer a totally derivative sound that recalls a particular Irish band. There are also simmering country flourishes to be found on the breathlessly titled You Cannot Choose the Roads That Take You Home, but those touches come with a certain New Wave relentlessness courtesy of a rhythm section that may leave you making mental comparisons to the Killers at times. However, lead vocalist Graham Horner does sound a little like Bono in his intonation, so you would be forgiven if you thought the band’s primary influence is brought to you by the letter U and the numeral two.


There’s a certain restlessness to be found on this album, too. Two of the 13 tracks here have the word “sleep” or a variation thereof in their titles (that would be “A Good Night’s Sleep” and “Slept Like Babies”), and the final song, “The Past and the Future” offers the line “Sleeping is a pointless ritual”. Maybe the band is too busy packing the bars and playing late, and not getting enough shut-eye in the process? Whatever. You Cannot Choose the Roads That Take You Home is proof that the Barlights have a crowd-pleasing sound, even if,  at times, it rubs a little close to ... well, you know. These songs are rambunctious, rollicking and lodge in your ear like an earworm burrowing deep. Expect Barlights to start filling stadiums someday, once the band writes its own version of “With or Without You”.

Rating:

Zachary Houle is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction, and the recipient of a writing arts grant from the City of Ottawa. He has had journalism published in SPIN magazine, The National Post (Canada), Canadian Business, and more.


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