Written and recorded in a backyard shed in North-West London, mixed by Paul Love in London and Paris, and mastered by Andy Baldwin at Metropolis Studios in London, “Self-Theories” by London alt-indie duo Plastic Barricades was released on the 23 November. The 12 track recording is described as an album about “despair and hope, anxiety and optimism, lack of self-esteem and the active search for it, maladies of the modern world, our responsibilities and reinventing ourselves for the sake of a brighter future.”
Through it all, inspiration has never eluded Dan Kert on guitars and vocals, and Paul Love on drums and production (aka Plastic Barricades), and it’s a damn good thing it hasn’t, because their new record, is full of their finest songs to date. Despite the often desperate themes, “Self-Theories” is gigantic and jubilant in sound.
Plastic Barricades have digested their influences and settled into their own sound. So, if anything, this is their boldest recording, seeing them step out from behind their singles collection and asserting themselves as a creative album force. In addition, three songs on the album, have stunning DIY music videos – “Tunnel”, which was filmed using a digital microscope, “Optimist” which had a cast of 300+ in a fish tank, and “One for the Road” which used vintage road trip footage from the 50’s.
Even with the wonderful music arrangements, and kaleidoscopic production, Dan Kert remains front and center in all his glory. He shuffles across the opening track, “Tunnel”, with the same shoot-for-the-stars attitude Plastic Barricades use on every project. And once again he meets his transcendent goals, comfortably placed between jangling guitars, driving basslines and rolling drums.
Musically, Plastic Barricades think deep thoughts, which all come to the fore on the outstanding “Optimist”, about seeing the way forward, through what may seem like a hopeless situation. The chord progressions and rhythmic structures of the song borrow from complex stylings which are brilliantly distilled and rendered into an accessible crossover alt-pop and neo-jazz format.
Moving forward Plastic Barricades breeze through a flurry of highly resonating tracks, through which they sound unencumbered, confident, and totally steadfast, seamlessly pouring energy and creativity into the upbeat “Don’t Follow Me” and “Glaring Screens”, before coming down half a notch, on the mid-tempo groove of “Weightless”. And this is what makes Plastic Barricades so endearing.
Their affection for everything they pour into their music – from the astute instrumentation, to the lyrical observations, everything is so sincere, it can’t help but be charming. Moreover, Plastic Barricades has all bases covered in this album. From “Right To Be Adored” to “Game of Numbers” and “Spectators”, they continue to capture diverse sentiments and emotions with a startling directness.
On “Spectators”, “One For The Road” and “The Great Uknown”, there’s also plenty of melodies and expansive musical arrangements to fill your head and invade your soul. The final two bonus tracks, “Everyone Is Busy” and “Final Chance”, are actually demos, which add an extra layer of rustic flavor to the proceedings. Dan Kert’s voice is a thing of strange beauty here – full of passion, and searching for the kind of truths that only the finest singer-songwriters can.
“Self-Theories” ultimately hangs together on atmosphere and narrative; Dan Kert and Paul Love unfailingly accentuating the bright, shiny, and the somber. Providing an effective counterbalance between the profound lyrical themes and blazing musical motifs. This no doubt will remain an important milestone in Plastic Barricades’ growing career.
**Photo and artwork credits: Elina Pasok**
Tunnel – How would your anxieties look under a microscope? The video was made using a microscope with up to 1000 times magnification.
Optimist – “Labyrinths with open doors for an optimist”. Video featuring 8 houses, 8 cars, plenty of glassware, some benches and trees, a crowd of 300 cast members and around 20 buckets of water.
One for the Road – An ode to the freedom of exploration. Footage filmed in the late 1950s around the US by families with their brand new cutting edge handheld cameras.