A triumphant second LP after so little plain sailing between albums.
Alex Denney 2011-03-25
Glasvegas first emerged in 2007 ticking many of the ‘big sounding’ indie band boxes: a gang of four working-class kids from Glasgow’s east end flaunting a woolly-mammoth-sized take on Jesus and Mary Chain scuzz and 60s girl-pop grandeur. Unlike the vast majority of their peers, however, this lot actually had something — the sound was authentically naive, brittle; the clunking bum-TISH rhythms and singer James Allan’s vocals betraying a strange vitality the rest could only dream of getting close to.
Since their self-titled 2008 debut it’s been far from plain sailing for the group, however. Drummer Caroline McKay has departed, to be replaced by Swede Jonna Löfgren, while James Allan reportedly overdosed on animal tranquiliser at the Coachella festival in 2009, also going AWOL for five days around the time of Mercury Prize ceremony of the same year.
Despite all the turbulence they’ve made it back for a second bout, and EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ announces Glasvegas MkII as a somewhat different beast to its predecessor. U2 producer Flood marshals the band’s bulldozing energy into an altogether slicker sort of bombast, and admittedly there are moments (Dream Dream Dreaming and the seemingly endless build-up of Lots Sometimes) where the songs sound in danger of losing their way in the middle of it all.
Mainly, though, Glasvegas wear their professional makeover with surprising panache. Part of the credit for this belongs to new stickslady Löfgren, who brings complex accents to tracks like The World Is Yours: a star-spangled gallop whose electric whammies and crashing snares sound like Echo & The Bunnymen in their Killing Moon pomp.
But ultimately the record belongs again to James Allan, who brings all the right notes of toughness and vulnerability to Shine Like Stars’ Killers-ish synth-rock and the pounding, disconsolate You, a highlight which hot-wires the Doves template and plunges races it straight off the nearest available cliff. He also gives fuller rein to the lonesome upper registers of his voice on the majestic I Feel Wrong and Whatever Hurts You Through the Night’s exquisite, slow-motion heartbreak.
Put simply, you feel that every note is earned with this guy, and when he duets with his mum (seriously) on set closer Change you know that however much this album risks trading in on some of their native charm as a band, Glasvegas have come through admirably.