The Barren Spinsters – Ten Steps To Cynical Thinking (2019)


Armed with a high energy live show, songs from a forgotten century, and a terrible band name, The Barren Spinsters are the kind of band that Jack White would maybe join if he lowered his standards.

They look like a two-piece, sound like a five piece, and move like a hair piece. Front man Brendon Houlahan plays guitar with his hands, bass with his feet, and sings with his face. Matt Tennant belts the drums really hard, sings a little bit, and wears really dumb shirts while doing it. Together, The Barren Spinsters deliver 70s blues rock with a modern thrashy twist. Much the same way that Wolfmother doesn’t.

I don’t usually share any bits and pieces from the press releases or artist bio, but I found the above bio of ACT natives, The Barren Spinsters, as entertaining as their particular brand of bluesy rock music.

Then there’s the cover art – a superb illustration in the style of Enid Blyton, poking fun at modern life.  It’s striking, and makes me think back to the days when I’d buy a lot of albums based only on the cover art.

As for the music, it’s different, but in a good way.  Opening with latest single, Hey Ruth, the two piece band deliver an upbeat brand of blues rock, complete with harmonica.  The vocals are great, and the way the band highlight that by echoing the vocal lines with the guitar is very cool.

West of the Happiness is a toe tapping song that will function well with a beer in hand.  Lyrically it might not be the happiest of subject matter, but you’d never know it from the musical backdrop.  Long Gone is a somewhat more somber affair, even opening with a sigh, before becoming a soulful track, with elements of funk.

Mississippi Monday’s follows suit with the uplifting, summer days vibes, Punching Above Your Weight is a rollicking bluesy foot stomper, set off by the gravelly vocals and tongue in cheek lyrics – a highlight of the album for me, while Step Down is almost A Cappella until about the half way point, when a sizeable riff kicks in.  There’s also some vocal passages here that left me out of breath, even only as the listener.

That’s the End of That is laid back and casual, boosted by the backing vocals and some slick guitar.  Just the Way You Are is another foot stomper, complete with crunchy staccato riffing, and some sweet vocal effects, while Midnight Philosophy is an up tempo shuffle – High In energy, and an all round great time.

Milkman Stomp is brief, but it certainly lives up to the stomp part of its name, and that guitar tone is phenomenal.  Capping off the album is Lately.  Featuring some great percussion as the guitar snakes it’s way to its eventual climax – it’s another highlight, and I could see this track becoming a live favourite.

This is an album chock full of great hooks and infectious grooves, and while The Barren Spinsters don’t seem to take themselves too seriously on the surface, the music is anything but a joke.


Review by Shayne McGowan

Check out The Barren Spinsters, as they tour the east coast in support of the album, at the dates below;


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