Barbara – BRB

Since it’s moved to Netflix, I’m probably not up to date with my watching of the ‘Black Mirror’ TV series. I’m not a big consumer of TV and just tend to forget or lose interest as things enter multiple seasons. But, back in the day, I’d look forward to a new series of ‘Black Mirror’ with excited anticipation. It was a time when Ollie, my son, would visit at weekends and we’d watch whatever was new. They never failed to prompt discussion and conversation – scientific advances upsetting and confusing the world as we knew it. 

Be Right Back is one of my favourite episodes. If you haven’t seen it then you must. It’s the one in which a grieving Martha loses her partner to a premature death. She’s put in touch with a sinister company who are able to recreate that partner based upon his online and social media activity. It’s creative, startling and unsettling as it hurtles towards a disturbing ending. A totally compelling watch. 

I sometimes wonder what the Sonic Breakfast bot might be like. I expect they’d be exceptionally annoying. You’d hate that they brought all conversations back to new music that they’d heard. They’d only be revealing a small part of their actual life; some parts would remain hidden. Sometimes, the bot would make stories up, just because it felt mischievous to do so and nobody would know any different. 

Barbara are Henry and John Tydeman, songwriting brothers from Hove. Their debut single, BRB, is directly inspired by that episode of Black Mirror. “It’s an amazing episode because of all the moral questions it raises,”, says John. “Especially as it’s inevitable that this sort of technology will be available in the real world some day soon. Perhaps it already is! That’s what the song’s about: we’re retelling that story, from the perspectives of the human and the android.

You sense that Henry and John are no mugs. “We’re trying to enjoy the journey instead of being obsessed with goals.“, they say when I enquire about plans for 2021. “The first thing we’ll do when lockdown lifts is have a nice pint at the local pub. Hopefully in the beer garden with the sun out!

Musically, BRB is right up Sonic Breakfast’s street. Inventive and yet familiar, the song dances along not afraid to draw influence from all manner of places. I hear the pomp of Queen, the harmony of the Beach Boys, the choir of the Polyphonic Spree and the vintage sounds of music hall all coming to the fore at different points in the tune. That could descend into an almighty chaotic mess of a whole in lesser hands but Barbara are too talented to allow that to happen. 

That talent really does come across strongly in the lockdown live video that Barbara released to accompany BRB. They released this after a lyric video. Both contain slightly different versions of the same song – one has the studio whistles and bangs whilst the other sounds more organic. Both are vital and I make no apologies for sharing the pair today. 

I’ll see you soon.