Glasvegas – Glasvegas (Columbia – 8th Sep) 9/10
Occasionally, believe it or not, the NME gets it right. It might not be often, but for every Bravery, there’s a band as special as Glasvegas championed by the once-great magazine. Call it the law of averages.
And this time they were spectacularly on the money. Glasvegas have unleashed a beast of a debut, destined to slay Best Of album lists across the country come the end of the year. Yes, they sound a bit like The Jesus and Mary Chain crossed with My Bloody Valentine, but harking back twenty years does not change how good this album is.
The heart of their appeal is emotion. Critics lambast their simple style, but their often basic drum lines and guitar riffs are not at all the point. The thing that makes Glasvegas stand out is the way they make you feel.
It’s a rare thing to hear an album that makes your spine tingle almost all the way through it, but the black-clad foursome has managed it with ease. And you sense there’s even more to come.
‘Glasvegas’, self-titled as all debuts should be, begins with ‘Flowers and Football Tops’, daringly extended to seven minutes for this recording, but losing none of its grace and power. It tells the story of murdered Glaswegian teen Kriss Donald and is a worthy brother to ‘Daddy’s Gone’. Which we’ll come to later. The refrain of ‘You Are My Sunshine’, set to the band’s trademark Phil Spector Wall of Sound guitars, is almost too much to bear.
Social worker anthem ‘Geraldine’ follows before the band’s best song, ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’. Incredibly personal, singer James Allan lays his heart on his sleeve and performs a vocal of such magnitude it gives even Morrissey a lesson in self-abuse. “I feel so guilty about the things I said to my mum when I was ten years old”, he confesses, almost chillingly.
The band’s decision to decamp to New York with Muse producer Rich Costey had left many fans worried that the band’s lo-fi sound would become punctured by ludicrous solos and stupid glitter jackets. But Costey, aided by Allan, keeps it understated throughout, letting the band’s natural potency shine through without layers of clunky production.
The chorus of “Here we fucking go” on debut single ‘Go Square Go’ relates a childhood playground fight. Violence, divorce, stabbings and murder all punctuate the record. It might not appeal to Middle Englanders in the Cotswolds, but for many in so-called Blade Britain, many of the lyrics will hit hard.
So, to the band’s defining track, ‘Daddy’s Gone’, detailing a messy divorce from the child’s perspective. “Be as fucking insincere as you like” barks Allan venomously, amid for once toned down guitars and a gentle ‘tish’ from stood up drummer Caroline McKay. It’s hard to say anything about the song that hasn’t already been said a million times, but Allan’s repeating of the line “He’s gone” is a real hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck-standing-up moment, among a sea of similar sentiment.
‘Stabbed’, entirely spoken, over the piano of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ treads the fine line of mawkish and melancholic dangerously, and as a result is probably the weakest track on the album. But still, you have to admire the bravery of the band’s inclusion of it.
The album closes with two gentler tracks, winding down successful after the passion of the previous eight numbers. The change of pace is entirely necessary and brings the record to a natural conclusion.
Most debuts have the odd clunker, but this one is solid gold throughout. I don’t often use the word masterpiece when describing an album but this truly is one. It brims with courage and a fuck you attitude, it fills you with joy and sadness at the same time, it makes you want to punch the air while jerking at the heartstrings. It is simply stunning.
With today’s daily news bulletins about the latest knife crime, Glasvegas’ tales of life on Glasgow’s hardest streets feel even more powerful yet delicate than ever. This album will define the year for sure, and perhaps even the decade. Yep, it’s that good. Honest. For once, believe the hype.
[This review was originally published on The Music Magazine]