Saturday, September 20, 2008

Glasvegas Release Album - It's Good. Real Good.

The band Glasvegas have finally released their debut album - self titled Glasvegas.

As you may have read from previous posts, I'm real high on this Scottish group as generating raw, passionate, well constructed and meaningful rock and roll in a day and age of samples, sugar pop, fluff and DJs. Sure enough, the album debuted at the top of the UK charts upon release.

With their initial set, the Glasgow-based band puts forth a complete document. It's a record you can listen to from beginning to end. Rock rave ups, slow epics and mid-paced tunes - the album has it all. Many of the songs here were also released in a very limited vinyl run in the UK earlier this year, and the versions here are slightly different. Equally good, but just slightly richer on the new album.

Cover art above. (Artwork created by Glasvegas.)

The group's sound is a a fresh and intriguing mix of Phil Spector "wall of sound," rock, do-wop, Clash-style passion, Jesus & Mary Chain ambiance and Scottish folk. And that would be enough to take note, but on top of that the band's leader, James Allen, pens and delivers lyrics in a Scottish accent that tell stories that for the most part you haven't heard before in song - tales of social workers, murder victims, fatherless homes, liars coming to grips with their life and more. This is another element of creating great rock music in my mind - writing about what affects you, what you see in your life and what you have to say about it.

Joining Allen in the lineup are Rab Allen on lead guitar, Paul Donoghue on bass and Caroline McKay on drums.

(Picture above right NOT taken by me.)

Without further ado, here is a track-by-track review for your consideration:
  1. Flowers and Football Tops - A song about a parent who has lost his or her son. While the lyric doesn't say if it's violence 0r an accident, what's clear is the parent is destroyed by this death. The title of the tune references beautiful and fun things that don't matter any more now that the son is gone. "No sweeping exits, no Hollywood endings, flowers and football tops don't mean a thing." A sad subject to be sure, but on the other hand the music is propelling and James Allen's delivery very convincing. All in all, a song that tugs at the heartstrings.
  2. Geraldine - The first single from the album, and perhaps the best song of them all. See my review here. You can also hear the song and see the video at the band's site here. Just click on the "Glasvegas Media Player" on the left side of the site.
  3. It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry - This song centers on the guilt felt by a deeply insecure person who has covered up for these shortcomings with a life full of lying and cheating. Finally, he is now seeing for the first time the hurt he has caused others and himself. Swept up in an epic and melodic tune, the singer admits a series of sins in the first part of the song. Then, all of a sudden the moment of reckoning comes - "where the outcome unfurls and the truth is being told." This is the singer looking his dishonesty and guilt straight in the face - the "grand finale and crescendo of demise" where, as the music builds to a dramatic peak, he ultimately exalts that it's his "own cheating heart that makes" him cry.
  4. Lonesome Swan - This a straight forward "don't get yourself too down little girl, tomorrow's gonna be fine" song that, while sporting a compelling and moving tune, doesn't particularly rate among the album's best. But, having said that, it's still a very listenable tune and a good bridge between the previous and next track.
  5. Go Square Go - This is a song about standing up to bullies. In this one, Allen articulates the words a son is hearing from his Dad as he tells his "square" boy to stand up and fight those who are pushing him around. And Dad ain't taking no for an answer. "Don't you make me come down to the pub with all my mates knowing some individual smashed you up." At the end, the square speaks for himself and agrees his "dad is right" and that "this bullying has got to stop tonight." In that last line, one wonders if the square is saying he wants to go after his father the bully just as much as anyone else.
  6. Polmont On My Mind - This song is about a man in jail thinking about his situation in life and his regrets. Building from a slow start the song reaches critical mass in the latter third for a powerful ending.
  7. Daddy's Gone - The second single from this album. See my review here. You can also hear the song and see the video here.
  8. Stabbed - While you gotta love a song that takes on the subject of the inevitability of getting stabbed in Glasgow (apparently quite a problem there), this one is a little out of place given the that the lyrics are a bit spotty and the dirge of a tune tires a little by halfway through. A previous version of this song was radically different - a musical rocker. I like that version better.
  9. S.A.D. Light - It's a winter landscape in this song...both musically and the heavy hearted protagonist wanders alone in the cold, dark night looking up at the constellations and contemplating life.
  10. Ice Cream Van - A very light hearted title for a serious song about the evils of intolerance and racism. The "voice" in this one is sitting on the pavement curb of some gray, stormy city waiting for the one true and good thing he can count on in this horrible, screwed up world - the ice cream van. The call at the end for "active citizenship" and "pure community" as a storm is building on the horizon either signals hope or is a rally cry to the barricades of goodness in a hopeless situation.
It's interesting that some other great songs by this band such as Legs 'n Show, Colin the Copper, Whitey, The Prettiest Thing on Saltcoasts Beach, and a cover of Be My Baby were left off the record. Perhaps they will surface as b-sides in the future.

To summarize, I highly recommend Glasvegas. Buy it to get Geraldine, Flowers & Football Tops, Dady's Gone, It's My Own Cheating Heart and Go Square Go, and because this is what I'd call a complete album...enjoy the other five quality songs as a bonus.

If I was a music magazine I'd give it a five stars out of five rating.

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