I first came across Charlie Barnes as the enthusiastic fresh-faced guy behind the merch desk at a few Amplifier gigs I attended years ago. Since then Charlie has gone on his own path and is now a multi-instrumentalist touring with successful indie-pop band Bastille, which he describes as his “day job”. He still writes his own music, and Last Night’s Glitter evolved into a full album from initially being intended as an EP, or a collection of live tracks, released while touring to promote his previous and second solo album Oceanography.
Evidently the “day job” and real life got in the way of that idea, so Charlie sat on the bare bones and added to them to produce this charming album. A jobbing musician was an increasingly rare thing, even pre-Covid, but Charlie’s inescapable talent has obviously been recognised, as Last Night’s Glitter finds itself on well-known prog label InsideOut, and quite right too! It ain’t prog though, oh no!
After opening with Sing To God (no, not THAT one), which is a short chamber orchestra instrumental that stops suddenly (not sure why – maybe it’s a glitch on the promo download?), we arrive at first song proper. All I Have is a wistful paen to his and his peers’ shortcomings. “I try and try my best”, he sings. Don’t worry mate, your generation is no worse than any that came before. The melancholy is underlined by some plaintive trumpet, giving the tune a quaint Olde English feel. A sophisticated song indeed, and indicative of Charlie’s many and varied burgeoning musical talents, foremost among which is his highly expressive voice, a clear toned emotive sound that puts me in mind of a less theatrical Joe Payne.
The musicians backing Charlie, drawn from his colleagues in Bastille occasionally provide a fulsome backdrop, but most of the songs are stripped bare outings like MacbethMacbethMacbeth, songs that have melodies built around simple but effective strummed or picked acoustic guitar figures, where the craft of Charlie’s writing shines through. This is a solo album shorn of the studio production embellishments of Oceanography, and is all the more intimate, and better for it. The introspective nature of the album shines light on its songs’ subtle musical intricacies, revealing compositions that are never clever for the sake of it, but show no little skill in their minimalistic arrangements.
The range of Charlie’s angelic voice is highlighted most on Dresden, where it gently soars and swoops, never over-dramatically, through the guitar and piano backdrop, demonstrating an innate skill in its phrasing. Quite lovely! Everything builds up to, or rather drifts on a near unnoticeable undercurrent towards the melancholic, almost lachrymose title track, wherein our young hero out-Garveys Guy. In my mind’s eye it is easy to see Charlie holding a festival crowd in the palm of his hand while he splendidly emotes the narrative of the song, which eloquently describes arriving at a place and a moment in time in the songwriter’s life. “Evocative” is the word.
Last Night’s Glitter may well be Quiet Album Of The Year, and is a nice gear change from my normal preference for hideous rackets, feral or not. Trouble is, you won’t find Charlie’s tracks on a MOJO cover CD, which is where they deserve to be.
01. Sing To God (1:22)
02. All I Have (4:25)
03. The Weather (4:32)
04. MacbethMacbethMacbeth (4:11)
05. Ruins (4:37)
06. Dresden (4:52)
07. WHTHR (Interlude) (0:47)
08. Will & Testament (4:10)
09. Former Glories/Bruising (Reprise) (4:26)
10. Last Night’s Glitter (6:31)
Total Time – 39:55
Charlie Barnes – Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Piano, Lap Steel, Keyboards
Ciara Ismail – Violin
Rittipo – Baritone Sax, Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax, Alto Sax, Flute, Bass Clarinet
Johnny Abraham – Flugel Horn, Trumpet
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 2020