Note: This post was scheduled for the weekend and didn’t get posted because I don’t understand how dates work. So enjoy it today!
Watching a band reinvent itself can often be a painful experience, especially if that reinvention isn’t quite complete when they take that new material on the road. Fortunately for Seattle’s Barcelona, the transition from indie rock to a shimmering electropop was complete by the time they took they stage Thursday at Neumos.
After strong opening sets from Seattle’s Gibraltar and Portland-based Mackintosh Braun, Barcelona announced the change immediately with the sinister blast of 80s synth and soaring vocals of “Paper Lion,” a standout track from their new three-EP set “The Melodrama.” It was all the proof needed; Barcelona is a much different band.
And they happen to be a much better band, too. You could tell lead singer Brian Fennell loves his band’s new sound, which was self-possessed on the serpentine “Sick” and sounded ready to infiltrate a nightclub’s PA on “Diamond and Silver,” which got the crowd dancing as Barcelona started really hitting its stride.
Barcelona managed to provide plenty of moments of atmosphere as well, like on the cool restraint and spacey guitar that gave “Fall In Love” its smooth, sexy vibe. In fact, sexiness was a prime factor in a lot of Barcelona’s music, which seemed specifically designed to, ahem, set the right mood.
The reason that all that suave, swank machismo works is the band’s talent at finding just the right sonic balance to sell its sometimes provocative lyrics. “Cure” proved that, with a meaty hook softening the blow of singing about sex in front of Fennell’s parents and old friends from church.
One of Barcelona’s best songs is their lead single “Background.” On Thursday, it became a joyous show closer as Fennell detailed a drunken night out seeing an old lover with a new man. An infectious chorus helped make the song a truly professional piece of pop music ear candy.
Time will tell if Barcelona’s fans will accept their new sound, but things seemed promising Thursday. Fennell thanked the crowd (not quite sold out but a busy night at Neumos nonetheless) for putting up with so much new material, but it didn’t seem like the new sound had overwhelmed them.
Perhaps that’s because Barcelona now sounds like a lot of what makes it to the radio these days: slick production, big hooks and plenty of sex appeal. Fennell said the band worried about embracing a more electronic sound when they were first fooling around with their new songs, but the payoff has been immediate and undeniable.
Whatever they used to be, Barcelona’s evolution is complete. Whether their new sound is here to stay is another question, altogether.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails