The ability of most modern rock bands to sneak upon you and present a style of music that is much a revelation as it is heavily borrowed, which is to say as exciting is it is steeped in rock classicism, is rare. This is the struggle that all traditional rock bands have to face — how can you present yourself and your songs without sounding bland, boring or derivative? Glasgow’s Glasvegas, all leather jackets, coiffed barnets and shades arrived like extras in a remake of The Wild One and set tongues wagging in jaw-dropped awe, while being anything but original and innovative.
Emotionally charged tracks like “Daddy’s Gone” and “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry” from their 2008 stratified the band into the mainstream, riding a wave of velvetsmarychainspector cool with lyrical touches that dug deep and drew you in. As debut albums go, it was a crowning achievement for any band, but such defining statements will always pose the question “and where do we go from here”. Publicised drug overdoses, disappearing acts and line-up changes all would occur before this question was answered, or even attempted.
EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ is as an album as frustrating to decipher as it is finding the backslash key on my keyboard to type out the damn title. Were Glasvegas’ intentions to make the most defiantly over-confident record in the history of rock, turning their Spector-esque wall of sound into a technologically-tricked out tidal wave? James Allan’s Glaswegian brogue still plays tricks on the ear (“You” — other than the repeated title, honestly no idea), but it’s the least of their problems. Guitars, synths, drums, pianos et al collide into on big passionately delivered chorus after another. EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\has that classic Glasvegas grandeur about it, but it’s more Muse battling it out with U2 than anything else.
Barring the pair of ballads (“Lots Sometimes” and “Change”) that lightly redeem and close the album in old-school Glasvegas style, there’s something gone desperately awry here. When did the simple process of making a rock n’ roll record become so convoluted and bloated? EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ glistens under the weight of heavy-handedness, artistic delusion and studio pampering. There are worthy songs (“Shine Like Stars” and “Dream Dream Dreaming”) done a great injustice and others (“Pain Pain, Never Again” and “Euphoria, Take My Hand”) that just miss the mark completely. A potential diamond polished so hard that it cracked right to the core.