Friday, 23 August 2013

Glasvegas - Later... When The TV Turns To Static


A group of near-middle aged men released an album of post-punk / shoegaze gold, when Glasvegas surfaced in 2008. Their self-titled debut album stood out as one of 2008s gems. They came without a bang, without a story, and then they left without a bang. See, this may surprise people - Glasvegas released a second album in 2011 called Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\. It passed us without Columbia's marketing campaign and without knowledge of their drummers departure - Columbia dropped Glasvegas later that year. They succeeded at creating single material for a genre known for non-existing chart hits -"The World Is Yours". Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\ received a generally negative critical reception, including a 4.0 from myself. A stark contrast to what I believed to be the best major-label debut album to be released in years with Glasvegas in 2008.

That simplicity, sheer Scottish pride, and unique blend of lyrics really took a toll on my listening habits that year. Glasvegas combined Ludwig van Beethoven with Vincent van Gogh,  Phil Spector with Andy Warhol. They were the epitome of love and hate - for the time being at least...

It's always going to be past tense with Glasvegas. They've never looked like a band that can build from the ground up. New material is always welcomed, but when a band you cherish releases an album of mediocrity, the questions start to become answered. If Glasvegas were my epitome of love and hate in 2008, then what are they now? 2011 was a difficult year for the Scots, you can still notice the lack of enthusiasm in their faces today. When James Allan hit writers block in California writing and recording Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\, part of me believed he had a nervous breakdown. The lack of originality, ingenuity and creativity on Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\ surely wasn't down to the Californian sun? After all, Glasvegas is the combination of the dirt lows of Glasgow, with the stardom, bright lights, and fantasy world of Las Vegas. Later... When The TV Turns To Static takes Glasvegas back to their roots, Glasgow.

Allan opens up the album with one of his best vocal deliveries to date: "My street as I remember is, still the same, wonder what the people round here say, only I can turn things the other way, I think my friends have all give up on me." He goes on to sing clearly: (this is really important) "Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, into the future with me, beware the fences, the present defences." It's hard transcribing everything Allan sings, because his Scottish accent is strong. He sings a powerful chorus with his home grown imagery: "Its later when the TV turns to static, it's quiet on the edge of my bed, up in the attic, how I came home tonight seems so automatic, systematic now the outside world works so cinematic." Opening with the common shoegaze sounds, "Later... When The TV Turns To Static" starts Glasvegas' third album with a seize the moment opportunity. It's a ballad, a Scottish ballad that finds itself in pole position rather than last on the grid where some may place it.

Later... When The TV Turns To Static follows a similar pattern to the bands' debut album Glasvegas. There's a hidden flow, you notice it when listening carefully. Each track is representing, it's taking the listener through emotions, a journey. “Youngblood" has blunt, almost forceful instrumentation. Opening as a guitar rock drone, it takes an unconvincing path down to the core of Allan. His vocal: sentimental, to the edge of tears. It's like a runaway track, and having Allan sing unusually slow vocals only adds to the runaway effect: "Tangible one day, unrecognisable the next day." Allan's heart has been broken enough for you to realise the meaning of "Youngblood". It's mostly dark love stories on Later... When The TV Turns To Static, it does take the listener back to the golden age of Allan's heartfelt lyricism. "Secret Truth" evokes the gloomy nature of his lyricism, using reverb heavy instrumental to give his vocal a favour: "Every fucking time I don't look back expecting to see crystal clearly, I was right for you, and you wrong for me."

It doesn't stop there. Glasvegas have been criticised In the past for their tendency to repeat themselves musically. The departure of Rich Costey's production and a 60s girl group influence has been one of split opinions among fans. The "Be My Baby" drum riff is no more, this left previous drummer Caroline McKay without a job. Allan's shift to piano has been noted, with two mirroring tracks featuring Allan's heartbreak tracks - "Choices / "I'd Rather Be Dead (Than Be With You)". The former sounds cathartic to the ear, the latter a hate message released on this year’s Record Store Day. It's arguably the weakest track on the album, bringing to mind "Stabbed" from their debut album. Thankfully the second single opens Glasvegas back to the world of arena rock. An anthem at its core, "If" becomes an instant favourite. Soaring Interpol-esque guitars and marching percussion, "If" is the entire package. Most notably Allan's vocal work, a major improvement on previous work. They even throw in a sweet harmony before the prolonged killer chorus: "If not for loneliness, a friend is somewhere in the wilderness. If our love was ever to part ways, then the world as I know it would never ever spin again."

Glasvegas' third effort doesn't have an obvious concept like their glowing debut or their over-the-top sophomore. It's back to basics for the Glaswegians (and Swede), who returned to Glasgow for the recording process. The guitar spinning tracks are still present - "Magazine" and "Youngblood" top the album in this category. "If" is the skilled "Geraldine" of today’s Glasvegas, meanwhile the fourth track "All I Want Is My Baby" acts as the "Daddy's Gone". Strangely attractive, but at the same time off-putting - relating perhaps to Allan's daughter and referring to his underarm private life. Allan's vocal shrieks and accent droppings return once more for the album closer "Finished Sympathy". It builds like an album closer should, leaving the listener in awe of Rab Allan's lead guitar.

It's safe to say Later... When The TV Turns To Static is a return to form. The rawness and down-to-earth grip Glasvegas have on their own sound plays a major factor in how we and they perceive album three. James produced this himself, without a Costey or a Flood. The outcome is a drawn back album which isn't overproduced. It' an improvement on all accounts over 2011s Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\. This is a step forward rather than the two steps back they took two years ago.
~Eddie

7.6

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