From the Jesus and Mary Chain through to Franz Ferdinand, every once in a while the sound of Scotland will seemingly unleash an act that will take the music world by storm. Having whetted appetites with releasing several enticing limited edition singles over the last 12 months, Glasgow’s Glasvegas have finally delivered one of the most anticipated albums of 2008.
It’s hard not to listen to Glasvegas and be able to instantly dissect their sound, their image and their influences. They as much wear them on their sleeve (check the band in their uniform black clad/rockabilly look) as actively pursue them. You only have to seek out their cover of the Ronette’s “Be My Baby” to realise this band are feet forward, looking backward. Their sound to me is one that’s reminiscent of the late 80’s UK indie scene. The Jesus and Mary Chain snare/kick drumming style, the House of Love guitars, the floating Trash Can Sinatra’s harmonies all enmeshed in a Spector-esque production that literally bursts from the speakers.
The sweeping grandeur of “Flowers and Football tops” disguises the seriousness of the subject matter – a bereaved mother trying to make sense of her son’s murder. It’s an audacious way to begin an album with such a sorrowful, intense song, but it’s just one of several on this ten track album that will stop you in your tracks. Infidelity and deceit always make great subject matter for songs, and “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry”, reads like a forgotten Hank William’s tune with footballer-turned-musician, James Allen oozing self-hate and regret and descending into a raging mess of guitars that manages to reference Oasis and childhood nursery rhymes in its chorus.
All their singles to date appear here in re-recorded versions, their debut single “Go Square Go” is another disturbing slice of family life, a schoolyard fight and father to a son advice. “My dad told me not to come home/if I don’t kill this bastard” and it’s final football chant coda of “here we fucking go”. “Daddy’s Gone”, the single released last year that sent all heads turning, still hasn’t lost its emotional impact. “How you were my hero/How you were never here though”. The haunting “Stabbed” is shorn of its previous “(I’m Gonna Get)” prefix and is another chilling eye cast at modern society via Glasgow’s rough East End. Elsewhere social workers, jailbirds and seasonal affectiveness disorder all find a lyrical outlet via Allen’s broad Glaswegian accent.
It’s an astonishing debut, something that is needed every once in a while to reaffirm to the traditional indie music fans that the era of epic guitar-based bands aren’t entirely a dying breed. Despite the hype leading up to the release, knowing that this record would house all previous singles to date meant this was already verging on classic status. Glasvegas are liken to a photo-negative of Oasis, the songs are anthemic, but not in a celebratory sense. This is a brutally honest statement of the times and hopefully that message will get through. Glasvegas have made their own “Definitely Maybe” that might just define the current state of music for years to come.