Barkmarket is an amazingly original band and yet another one that got lost in the shuffle during the 90’s alternative boom, though they caught the attention of the ultimate rock producer Rick Rubin and were the first band he signed to his Def American label. Really, theirs is a sound that is as alternative as you can get…distorted guitars and power-trio arrangements being very much the hardcore/rock hybrid, while song structures (or lack thereof) are very free-flowing and jazzy in their openness. Closest comparison I can come up with is The Jesus Lizard, but with more melody and the occasional chorus you can sink your teeth into.
Check out my fave track from this CD, “Pencil,” and you’ll have a really good idea of what to expect from this band. There are two cover tracks here, as well, though you’d never recognize them given the thorough psychotic Barkmarket treatment they receive: “Back Stabbers” by the O’Jays and “I Don’t Live Today” by Jimi Hendrix. I remember Blackie Lawless of 80’s shock rockers WASP once saying “Cover songs are pointless unless you make the song better or at least change it.” Barkmarket has certainly changed the songs and made them their own.
“Grinder,” “Ditty” and “Hydrox God” are some other choice tracks on this CD, but the truth is you should listen to “Pencil” in its entirety first. There is no middle ground here…you’re either going to be on board or totally turned off, thinking “What the hell is THAT?!” “Pencil” is a 5-minute tune that is like 3 mini-songs mashed together seemlessly.
As testimony to the talent of guitarist/vocalist/band leader Dave Sardy, he’s gone on to produce some fine albums for the likes of System of a Down, Bush, Jet, Marilyn Manson, OK GO, Wolfmother and a host of others. In 2006 he won 3 Grammys (Wolfmother, OK GO, Marilyn Manson), 6 ARIA awards (Jet) and Brit awards for his work with Oasis, Marilyn Manson and Wolfmother.
His production prowess is on display here with his deft manipulation of cool sounds and sheer noise. Like other bands in the abyss with multiple reviews, you can pretty much take this CD and the follow-ups ‘Gimmick’ and ‘L. Ron’ and stick ’em in your media player on shuffle play. You either buy into the sound or you don’t. I’m sold.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Update: There’s not much I can find online from this album, but check these songs out and you’ll very much get the idea: Whipping Boy & Dumbjaw (both from the Gimmick CD) & Feed Me (from the L Ron CD and containing some cool skateboarding in the vid).