Thursday, December 18th, 2008
Go Square Go
Glasvegas celebrate Christmas, gear up for America
Steve GullickWhen I first wrote up Scotland’s Glasvegas, I went so far as to declare “there’s definitely something there” – a summation that would prove to be a bit of an understatement. Their debut self-title would turn out to be a massive hit in the UK, charting as high as #2 and going gold, making them easily one of the breakthrough acts of 2008 on that side of the pond.
Having acquired a copy of the album on import, it’s not hard to see why. They’ve learned their lessons from the Phil Spector school of pop but unlike many of their cohort, who’ve chosen to take things in a primitivist direction, they’ve taken that wall of sound and built a stadium out of it. Glasvegas is an utterly massive-sounding record, with sky-high sheets of guitar and cavernously echoing drums, but most of all singer James Allan’s huge and mournful bellow. Truly, this is stuff tailor-made to be sung-along with by tens of thousands.
And as they sing along, one would hope they’re too caught up in the moment to realize just how awful the words they’re singing are. Actually that’s overly harsh. Only some of the lyrics on Glasvegas are truly awful. In an effort to make the songs as broad and earnest as possible, Allan has eschewed any sort of lyrical finesse and instead relates things in the simplest, most literal and direct means available. Now sometimes this works – his delivery, all anguish and brogue, is a blunt instrument and when it hits, it’s a gut-wrenching body blow. But when it doesn’t – and I don’t think there’s any good way to present a line like “You don’t want to stab me/You don’t know my family/Or our capabilities” (taken from the Beethoven-backed song about someone about to be stabbed entitled, creatively, “Stabbed”) – it just sits there in all its awkward glory.
So it’s saying something when an avowed fan of clever and wordy songsmithery such as myself is still able to be won over by something as decidedly not as Glasvegas. Despite all its flaws, it’s undeniably rousing in the way that the very best anthems are, and Allan sings it with such earnestness and conviction that it’s hard to remain that critical. Some of the words may be graceless, but when it’s turned up loud and you’re singing them at the top of your lungs with everyone else, you don’t notice so much.
Even so, Glasvegas’ appeal has a distinctly British accent – I can envision them playing soccer stadiums, but not football, and the streets of America are littered with the bodies of acts who tried to recreate UK successes on this side of the pond. But they’re still going to try. Glasvegas will release their debut Stateside on January 6, bolstered with two bonus tracks, and coincide it with a short North American tour and some choice late-night television appearances. Their first US release, however, will technically be the A Snowflake Fell Christmas EP which is being made available via certain US independent retailers to anyone who pre-orders the album – full details and a live download of “Daddy’s Gone” available here. No idea if this deal is available in Canada, however.
The Belfast Telegraph, The Independent and The Telegraph have features on the band and their rise to stardom, The Daily Star talks to the band about their Christmas EP and Deadline Scotland gets a timeline for album number two.
Drowned In Sound checks in with some other Scots who’ve had a big year – Frightened Rabbit. And even though they just released a live acoustic album in Liver! Lung! FR!, DiS also report that another one will be coming next year on March 30 in the form of Quietly Now! – Midnight Organ Fight Live and Acoustic at the Captain’s Rest, which comprises a live and acoustic reading of The Midnight Organ Fight.
Having just released her first post-Pipettes single in “Another Version Of Pop Song”, Rose Elinor Dougall is offering a sample of her forthcoming solo album, which is set to finish recording in January and hopefully come out come Summer. I daresay that the solo material sounds quite classy – there is indeed life after polka dots.
BBC gets a new album update from Noah & The Whale. BrooklynVegan notes that the band have a late February date in New York City, which may mean that a make-up for their cancelled December jaunt to North America is being rescheduled. Or they just want to visit New York.
I’ve just made a new year’s resolution – to take the time to properly investigate Tindersticks. They’ve been recommended to me from more than a few quarters and it’s not like I have any excuse – I have a number of their albums on hand, including their latest The Hungry Saw, as well as a solo Stuart Staples album, and hey – they’re coming to town for a March 10 show at the Opera House. It’d be a crying shame if I finally got into them AFTER that, wouldn’t it? Full North American dates at BrooklynVegan, interviews at Prague Post and The Irish Independent.