Scotland has produced a lot of solid music. Plenty of relatively successful bands make the transition in the states, and even nowadays you’ll seldom find hipsters who don’t name-drop Belle & Sebastian within their first five sentences when talking about music. So it’s easy to give a band the benefit of a doubt, especially if they’ve already received so much critical acclaim by all those charming U.K. critics, and a lot of it is good. But then again, a lot of it is bad.
Enter Glasvegas, a band whose wordplay is as sophisticated as its name. This group reintroduces a very familiar brand of glum, distorted pop music that can either be interesting or boring based on a band’s execution. Here, the waves of shoegaze are drowned out only by singer James Allan’s depressing cries for help, while the rest of the band grinds out songs with mind-numbing progression that is seemingly endless.
The record starts off with Allan moaning, “Baby / Why you not home yet / Baby it’s getting late / I wish you would be home by now.” These sad regretful lamentations are a theme throughout the record. You’ve pretty much heard all you need to hear within the first 30 seconds of the absurdly long opener “Flowers and Football Tops.” Not much changes with “Geraldine,” as the same three notes are pounded into your skull until you cry for your own escape.
“It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry” has about as much depth as Simple Plan’s “Perfect.” You can imagine people drinking at one end of a pub, singing along to this sappy song while people on the other end are absolutely stupefied. Occasionally this can pass off as pretty, but there’s only so much a listener can take.
At times it feels like Glasvegas might break from this generic formula. During “Lonesome Song,” a guitar bridge has the feeling of transforming into something more pressing, but it sticks to the same still pace of the entire record. “Go Square Go” has a thumping bass drum throughout and is supposed to be the fun track on the album, but it turns into another bore as Allan mindlessly repeats, “Here we fucking go,” confusing the listener beyond belief.
“Polmont On My Mind” tries hard to make good on the energy that’s been lacking on every other song, but still comes up a bit short. There are some decent shifts on here, though. “Daddy’s Gone” sounds as weepy as its title, and does little to capitalize on any momentum the previous song might have conjured up. “Stabbed” has the best instrumentation backing it out of any of the songs, but that’s because it uses Beethoven’s glorious “Moonlight Sonata.” Allan tries to sound intellectual, but there’s a reason why the words are left to the imagination during this timeless instrumental piece. “S.A.D. Light” actually is about a sad light that you … turn on when you’re sad. It also features lyrics from the children’s song “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Impressive.
Probably the best song on the album, the subdued closer “Ice-Cream Van” highlights Allan’s controlled vocals over a quiet wave of sound that’s melted together. The lyrics are pretty solid here, and will leave you with some closure and maybe even a little promise that this band could evolve and grab an identity of its own.
However, this downtrodden quartet lacks the charm that has made a handful of moody Scottish bands successful. The band lacks the accessibility of Travis, the urgency of The Twilight Sad and the swagger of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Even with that in mind, music isn’t about replicating what you hear in your hometown. But you can’t help but feel that these guys are a dull product of superior locals that have come before them and have done it much better. And that’s not a good feeling to have.