Albert Co.'s Joseph Bridge creates infectious and eccentric rock

There's always been a vein of oddball, eccentric, very British pop music. I guess it comes from that type of oddball, eccentric, very British humour. You can hear it as far back as the Music Hall tunes of the 19th century, and there was always something quirky going on around the edges of modern pop. Heck, their version of rock 'n' roll came out of skiffle and Lonnie Donegan, and just try to explain the popularity of Rolf Harris (Australian, but huge in the U.K.). Way before he went to outer space, David Bowie was copying Anthony Newley and recording The Laughing Gnome. Most famously, the twisted side of The Beatles was always on display, from their love of Goon-ish humour to Maxwell's Silver Hammer.

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Things got really out there with psychedelia, most notably in the hands of early Pink Floyd leader Syd Barrett. His work on the first two Floyd albums and his brief solo career influenced a whole new strain. In the hands of talents such as Robyn Hitchcock and Andy Partridge of XTC, the post-Syd eccentric style is to present highly-infectious and well-produced studio tracks, making them really great rock tracks. The lyrics feature bizarre characters and tales stuck back in the paisley days, acid dreams of cartoon characters and Yellow Submarine plot lines. The vocals feature British accents, usually somewhat posh, and kind of conversational, almost spoken as much as sung.

It's become a genre, and you don't have to be British to take part. Out of Cape Breton comes Joseph Bridge, who also lives part of the time in Albert County, N.B.. He's a like-minded soul and fellow traveller to all the above folks. And where he's going is a special place of his own creation. His new album, just called Joseph Bridge, features a full story, set in a sanitarium, starring a fellow living there named Marvin. There are several other characters and friends, including Ricky the Mouse, Mr. Waterpump and Phyllis the Parking Meter Lady, who all get their own songs as part of the tale. I won't spoil the plot, as I wouldn't do it justice, it's one of those start-to-finish listens.

Bridge knows what he's doing. The acoustic guitar and bongo groove of Mr. Waterpump is ridiculously infectious, so much so it caught the attention of England's Radio Caroline, and you can hear the British DJ introducing and hyping the cut on-air as a kind of bonus cut on the disc. That was a couple of years ago, and Bridge has been building the project and connections since then. Another fan showed up from England, Ian McNab, leader of the hit band Icicle Works, who sings on Phyllis. Bryan Adams' guitar player, Keith Scott, adds to two more tracks. Then there are several folks out of the Moncton area scene, including Tim Isaac (Lovestorm, Isaac & Blewitt) on cello, and Alex Madsen (Divorcees) and Ashley McNally on vocals.

It will make you laugh, it will make you rock. Triangle Clouds is a grand explosion of guitar, a prog track gone off the rails for trip through the countryside. Ricky the Mouse is playful, but features lots of stinging lead guitar from Scott. Bridge's lone cover here, a faithful version of Barrett's beloved Opel, shows he wears his colours openly. He's joined some fine company, and belongs in the ranks.

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About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).

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