The Barrys Gutters and Skylines single review

Everybody knows the story how delivering a mushroom biryani to John Peel started Billy Bragg`s career. I wish I had a similar anecdote regarding The Barrys! Now, that would be something worth telling my (future) grandchildren.

Gutters and Skylines single cover

Unfortunately, my first encounter with the band started rather ordinarily – with an enquiry about
a review. Then yours truly got a plague and was out of action for good few weeks. It`s only now that I can do a review of the single since I can finally hold a pen in my hand or sit at the keyboard without falling flat on my face.

Receiving a great track in the post has a lot to do with opening presents on a Christmas morning. The joy and anticipation, not to mention the adrenaline, are in high registers. There may be many genres in the widely defined guitar music, but to be honest with you, I don’t get acoustic punk that often to feature. So, when Vandalism Begins at Home asked me if I wanted to listen to the Barrys debut single “Gutters and Skylines” I could only say YES! Bold and caps included.

I don’t know how Peel would react if he heard the single, but I am more than happy to rate it 10/10. Here`s why.

The Bedford quartet is a tight unit consisting of two brothers Liam (vox and guitar) and James Burke (guitar, backing vocals), drummer Larry and violinist Mary Wilcockson. Working class and politically engaged, they do not shy from offering commentary about the pitfalls of modern life. And they do it with a rebellious streak and confident attitude. Perfect fit for me – they don’t call me Red Mal for nothing.

The Barrys

“Gutters and Skylines” do not necessarily talk about the current state of Northern Quarter, but somebody on Manchester City Council may want to pay attention before the city is so full of cranes that we will need to rename it Concretchester. The song is about inequality and how poverty shapes the fates of men at the very bottom. Liam Burke spits out his verses like he was Tommy Shelby`s machine gun, with a conviction of a newly ordained priest. The rest of the band is not lagging behind. They consider themselves drunk folk and could equally fit at a St Patrick`s fete or at a protest march. The band would probably not budge if bottles and stone slabs were flying around them either. I can`t put a finger on what makes them so fresh and outstanding, but they are. Maybe trading bass guitar for a voila was the right move.

As I mention – the band is outspoken. I think it is important for artists to stand up for something or at least shake listeners out of their indifference. Sure, there is place for those who simply want to entertain. But fun alone can only lead you to a (covid) party. “Wind of Change” or “Born in the USA” defined eras. Obviously, it would be rather foolish of me to expect a debut single of an up-and-coming band to suddenly define the last decade of Tory rule. But what The Barrys offer is consolation to those who live the struggle and they will hear it. Perhaps that is the point of every protest song since The Cutty Wren.

These days are quite dark and I`ve been looking for comfort in the wisdom of Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce of the series M*A*S*H. Played by Alan Alda, Hawkeye is an army surgeon trying to survive horrors of war with copious amounts of booze and promiscuity. But it`s his moral compass, his humanity and rebellion against the authority that made the character such a force in pop culture. Hawkeye`s most famous line “I will carry your books, I`ll carry a torch, I`ll carry a tune, I`ll carry on, carry over, carry forward” has been a source of hope for almost fifty years.  

Let me tell you The Barrys do carry a tune. When I play “Gutters and Skylines”, I don’t hear just a well-crafted song. I hear hope, something that can carry me forward.

I will raise a glass of dry martini and wish that this band will continue for decades to come and one day will be as accomplished as Billy Bragg.  Hope is worth more than curry and I think I just got the best present I could get.

You can follow the band online at:

Malicia Dabrowicz

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