Barbarossa is an Italian word for a German man used by a British musician for his solo work. Unfortunately, that long, winding geographical tidbit is the only interesting thing one can say about Barbarossa’s new album Bloodlines. The record is a mostly repetitive string of sappy, guitar-centered slow jams that by the end is as listless as it is dragging.
The album has an early bright spot in “Turbine,” which uses an infectious guitar riff with an octave leap to hook the listener. But from there, the relentlessly sentimental nature of the vocals combined with the repetition of dreary guitar and organ lines weigh on the listener. At times it even seems like the protagonist wants us to feel bad for him. The self-sacrificial lament of “S.I.H.F.F.Y.” looks to evoke pity with the line “I would break or shatter every bone.” But feeling sorry for someone isn’t that interesting to begin with and it certainly gets old after six entire minutes, as is the case with “Battles.”
The record decays even further at the end by dragging the listener through 50s-style balladry (“Savious Self”) to an aimless, cluttered ending (“Seeds”). The persistence in theme and phrasing may imply some sort of rock minimalism–perhaps a more personal, delicate Explosions in the Sky–but is rarely varied or developed enough to fully realize that goal. Even more frustrating is how the most interesting parts, like an early organ riff in “The Load,” are discarded prematurely, perhaps only used as bait for Barbarossa’s tales of woe.
Bloodlines shows a decent ability of the artist to craft a catchy line or two, but attempts of spinning those riffs into full, compelling songs saw more misses than hits. Additionally, the record-long pity party asks too much of a listener by turning them into a shoulder to cry on. There’s nothing wrong with a sad song, but musically asking for charity is a whole different story.