The Stray Trolleys

Barricades and Angels

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    8
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The Stray Trolleys are a fascinating historical footnote in the long, interesting career of Martin Newell, the fascinating Englishman best known for his work with Cleaners from Venus. Recorded in 1980 after he'd left the band Gypp and struck out on his own, the songs on Barricades and Angels were recorded quickly with small combo of steady-handed musicians and sound like the work of a pub rock band. Most of them are rollicking songs that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Nick Lowe album; they're simple and hooky, powered by Newell's cheery vocals, the tight rhythm section, and the snappy guitars of Newell and Malcolm Burch. "Governor's Only Daughter" and "Stiletto Love" sound like they could have been minor hits, "Finding Out" comes across like a star-crossed track from a coming-of-age movie, and "Mrs. Killer" puts most American power pop to shame with the huge hooks and pulsing energy. A couple tracks dip a toe into the omnipresent reggae sound that new wave bands couldn't seem to help themselves from borrowing -- these aren't the main attraction, but they aren't too embarrassing, either. What is nowhere to be found is any post-punk angst or punk aggression, that really wasn't Newell's scene. His music should have been embraced by the people digging Joe Jackson or following Rockpile from pub to pub; instead, despite a bit of label interest, the Stray Trolleys' music fell on deaf ears. The album wasn't even released until two years later, and then only on a small run of cassettes. Newell went on to different things, but the music he made with Stray Trolleys is a nice snapshot of a very specific time and sound that any fan of Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Joe Jackson, Graham Parker, or XTC could easily appreciate. In 2016, Captured Tracks reissued the album as part of a series of Newell-related releases. As luck would have it, digital files of the original masters were found and the mix is cleaner than even Newell's own copies. Added on for additional benefit is one extra track, "Mrs. Killer."

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