Steve Barton

Boy Who Rode His Bike Around the World

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Although Translator will probably forever be remembered for their first single, "Everywhere That I'm Not" (one of those songs that, although it was never a chart hit, has become a staple of radio station "'80s Flashback Weekends" and nostalgia CD compilations), they released four excellent albums of dark-hued guitar rock in the '80s. Never quite fashionable, the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles transplants were immune to the desperate-seeming stylistic changes that plagued similar bands like the Red Rockers. Oddly though, it wasn't until 12 years after the group split up that co-leader Steve Barton finally released his first solo album, 1999's The Boy Who Rode His Bike Around the World. Since Barton reunites with the other three members of Translator in various configurations (there are no tracks where all four play together, although drummer Dave Scheff and bassist Larry Dekker are the album's primary rhythm section), this is basically the best Translator album since 1982's Heartbeats and Triggers. Barton's songwriting style has changed not a whit, and the long layoff insures a consistently high quality level. The arrangements and production (mostly by Barton and Marvin Etzioni, with one track each produced by Ed Stasium and Los Lobos' Steve Berlin) are mostly low-key, but they don't feel skimpy or incomplete. The mood varies widely, from the delirious, lightly mocking "Pop Star Shine" to the chilling "This Dim Light," but Barton's classic pop voice and jangly guitar are at the forefront of all the tunes. The wistful title track and the propulsive "Cuban Heel Boots" are among the highlights, but the real treat is "Lost," a hidden bonus track that's actually an acetate of a single recorded in 1967 by the then 12-year-old Barton and his band the Present Tense. The shocking thing is that the propulsive, horn-driven pop-psych tune is actually really really good, and would be perfectly in place on any Pebbles anthology. The unsurprising thing is that Barton's rather bleak (more pessimistic than despairing) worldview was already in evidence at such a young age.

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