Glasvegas, White Lies
Bill Cummings 29/11/2008
Where do you stand on Glasvegas? Musical Marmite: You'll either love them or hate them. Certainly their recent single 'Daddy's Gone' was over played, initially finding favour before infecting our airways like an unwelcome uncle crying at a family party. Any band that concocts their name by taking the casino glamour of Las Vegas and stirring in the first letter of their hometown Glasgow are ambitious types. Indeed their front man James Allen has already dusted himself off from one notable lesser known career knock: he used to be a lower league Scottish footballer, until he was dropped from his contract. Glasvegas were born, at first taking a fashionable synth indie direction before experimenting with influences that really struck them. Thus early this year they were the name on the end of many tongues, a blog sensation, a band who, like Oasis, were spotted by and lauded by one former Creation head Alan McGee. So what happened, why the sudden hatred? Half the problem is that in 2008, the ridiculous hype engulfs any half way decent new act before they've had a chance to get going (The NME, Alan Mcgee I'm looking at you); they aren't the best new band in Britain, they're a good band with a few flaws who have the promise to be better. I think the other thing that comes in, once a band starts to do well after years of trying to get more listeners, (evolving, changing their style, what band doesn't?) there's a backlash.
So if Glasvegas are musical marmite sandwich tonight I wanted to take a hearty bite, chew and digest, in an intimate live venue, before they presumably disappear off to your bigger things. Fighting my way through the sweaty throng that had descended on Swansea's packed out Escape (a terrible venue), desperately I craned my neck to take in a 30 % angle of the show. Wearing blacked out shades and lurching forward, so that his mouth meets the mic: James Allan looks shockingly like The Clash's late front man Joe Strummer. A nifty light show frames the accomplices that flank him, they cajole, thud and pound instruments, I enjoyed their energetic set, sure parts of their songs do stray into mawkish ('Ice Cream Van') that conjured up worrying mental images of Duncan Bannatyne and his '70s ice cream van fleet. But what they do have is a standout vocalist who takes them up a level, separates them from the pack, his thick Scottish heart on the sleeve, spine-tingling brogue, has that ability to speak to and with a kind of (in this case Glaswegian) inner working class life of broken homes, kidnappings, social workers, the kind of vocalist that hasn't really seen populism since the pronouncements of an younger Liam Gallagher, that's what gives them that indefinable cross over appeal. Sure Alex Turner may sing wryly of northern clubs, and girls, but you get the impression that he's gently mocking them rather than speaking to them.
My favourite tonight is 'It's my Own Cheating Heart that Makes me Cry' whose emotional Motown flecked stream of consciousness, is punctuated by stomping, cavernous, heart beating drums, Allen's howl detailing both playground taunts ('Liar Liar Liar') and the adulterous breakdown of a relationship above waves of trembling guitars. While 'Flowers and Football Tops' addresses the death of 15-year-old Kriss Donald, who was kidnapped near his home and murdered by five men when Allan poignantly croons a snipped of the popular terrace anthem 'You are my sunshine, my only sunshine/ You make me happy when skies are grey'.
Sure some of their songs sound similar but that's called defining your sound, these are early days, not many bands fully expand on album one anyway. Also it's great that a band who on the face of it have some relatively un-commercial influences (ok they've been polished up and stadiumfied a bit, U2 basslines and all, for the actual album), looking a bit like and sounding a bit like a amped up Jesus and Mary Chain doing late night manoeuvres with The Proclaimers produced by Phil 'Wall of Sound' Spector, can actually get somewhere these days. The much anticipated, 'Daddy's Gone' with its swooning bittersweet tale of fatherly rejection induces a front row of swaying drunks to link arms, and communal singing replete with customary almost comical Rab C Nesbit-esque Glaswegian drawls.
So Glasvegas, more like musical Guinness: probably not the best new band around today, but a good one who have the potential to be stellar. I don't see why there needs to be a backlash just yet (mainly carried by music snobs who slate anything once it becomes successful), Glasvegas aren't moronic because some of their songs inspire people to sing along, it just makes their choruses anthemic, it means they may actually connect with a large section of the music buying public who may only pick up one or two CDs a year, that actually marks them out as ones to watch in future years. A thoroughly modern noise-pop band then: why do we hate it when our friends become successful?