Barnes & Barnes

  • Barnes & Barnes
  • Voobaha (Rhino) 1980 
  • Fish Heads: Barnes and Barnes Greatest Hits EP (Rhino) 1981 
  • Spazchow (Rhino) 1981 
  • Soak It Up EP (Boulevard/CBS) 1983 
  • Amazing Adult Fantasy (Rhino) 1984 
  • Sicks (Rhino) 1987 
  • Zalbagabee: The Best of Barnes & Barnes (Rhino) 1988 
  • Crispin Hellion Glover
  • THE BIG PROBLEM ≠ the solution. The Solution = LET IT BE (Restless) 1989 

Art and Artie Barnes (one of whom had a highly public former life as Billy Mumy, child actor) are a sick pair of perverts you would not want to know personally. At your party, they would stage disgusting practical jokes; they would tell obscene lies to your parents just to get a laugh. Both Voobaha and Spazchow offer heavy doses of dark-hued novelty music that chews up modern culture and spits it back, producing an equal number of chuckles and shudders. The first features the underground hit “Fish Heads” plus “Boogie Woogie Amputee” and “Party in My Pants.” On Spazchow you get “Spooky Lady on Death Avenue,” “Swallow My Love” and a merciless dissection of (the group) America’s “I Need You.”

In what clearly was the only possible response, two members of America provided backing vocals on the pair’s next effort, Soak It Up, a relatively restrained five-song EP. (The earlier retrospective EP is a fish head-shaped picture disc.)

Amazing Adult Fantasy offers further proof that age is softening the Barnes boys. Not only does Steve Perry of Journey sing on the utterly presentable “Don’t You Wanna Go to the Moon,” but the pair makes a vain stab at commercial accessibility with “I Don’t Remember Tomorrow” and other wimpolinos. Sicks, however, returns them to the disgustatorium, with such garbage pail tunes as “Pizza Face,” “Pussy Whipped” and “Sit on My Lap and Call Me Daddy.”

Reprising only two of the five songs comprising the appropriately shaped Fish Heads picture disc, Zabagabee contains many of the pair’s finest and most essential moments, including “Fish Heads,” “Party in My Pants,” “Boogie Woogie Amputee,” “Pizza Face” and a fine reading of “What’s New Pussycat?” produced by kindred weirdo Bob Casale. (The CD throws in five more.) Lovers of absurdist, sleazy humor should consider Barnes & Barnes highly recommended. All others should proceed with extreme caution.

For a truly bewildering experience, try listening to actor Crispin Glover’s (River’s Edge, Back to the Future, Charlie’s Angels) indescribable sideshow of an album. And try is the operative word: there’s no guaranteeing anyone’s ability to endure this entire program of cut-up found stories and neurotic songs. Barnes and Barnes provide the appropriately unsettled music for the album’s bizarre musical escapades, which include a multi-part homage to masturbation, Charlie Manson’s “Never Say ‘Never’ to Always” and a tearful version of “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”

[Jon Young / Ira Robbins]