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Glasvegas

The portmanteau wording of two contrasting cities, Glasgow and Las Vegas, Caledonian quartet GLASVEGAS also fuse a garage-rock hybrid of 80s indie-pop and doo wop with a twist of Phil Spector – “indie-wop”, anyone? A band that could name-check celebrity fans, Alan McGee, Lisa Marie Presley and DIRTY PRETTY THINGS’ Carl Barat, the retro-fied combo of Glaswegians swept up the fruits of their labour, when their near chart-topping eponymous album was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize in 2009.
Actually formed in the Darmarnock area of Scotland’s biggest city in 2003, singer/guitarist James Allan (a former winger for a number of lower-division football teams from Cowdenbeath to Gretna and Stirling Albion), roped in cousin Rab Allan (on guitar), Paul Donoghue (bass) and Ryan Ross (drums), to build upon their Spector-esque “wall of sound”. Like a modern-day JESUS & MARY CHAIN or ARAB STRAP in bed with The RONETTES – a picture best not thought about too intensely! – GLASVEGAS made their DIY vinyl debut courtesy of the Beethoven-sampled-meets-Sense Of Freedom-type dirge, `I’m Gonna Get Stabbed’.
Filling the berth left by Ross, Caroline McKay was in position for the group’s long-awaited follow-up platter, `Go Square Go!’, in 2006 – yes, another song about battling in the streets. Not exactly prolific at this stage, but building their fanbase brick-by-brick, two further classicist indie 45s reached the shops over the next few years, the heartfelt 50s-styled `Daddy’s Gone’ and `It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’ – f-in’ hankies at the ready lads. While the B-side to the latter indie jewel was Phil Spector’s `Be My Baby’, concert goers could also take in renditions of The KORGIS’ `Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ and NIRVANA’s `Come As You Are’.
A further flipside was `Flowers & Football Tops’, the opening salvo on their major label debut for Columbia Records, unimaginatively-titled GLASVEGAS (2008) {*8}. An anthemic masterpiece that at times swapped the council estate battlefields for that of the playground (“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” has its moments in `S.A.D. Light’), it housed all their singles so far, plus Top 20 breakers `Geraldine’ and a re-vamped `Daddy’s Gone’.
For some unbeknown reason, the ‘Vegas stuck in a “Killers” touch – almost suicidal! – on the anti-festive 6-song EP, “A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss)’. Coming across like a “My Bloody Christmas” package, the brooding brogue of James decked the halls with icy snowballs on the unlikely schizoid suspects, from `Fuck You, It’s Over’ to the more trad-addled `Silent Night’. Phew!
Duly replacing Caroline with Swedish-born student, Jonna Lofgren, 2011 saw the return of GLASVEGAS; the Top 30 single `Euphoria, Take My Hand’ preparing their loyal fanbase for the darker-edged, EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK {*5}. Yes, that difficult sophomore set syndrome had reared its ugly head again, as the record plummeted from its lowly Top 10 spot into the bargain bins. Produced by Flood when he received the tapes from the group’s Santa Monica, California beach house, the streets of Glasgow were a distant memory as the GV team slogged away at the album’s high points, `Shine Like Stars’ and The CURE-like `The World Is Yours’.
To witness the fallout effect when LATER… WHEN THE TV TURNS TO STATIC (2013) {*8}, was released, was sad but inevitable – it only peaked at No.41. Despite it career-low entry, crooning James’s desperate and despairing Weegie brogue was in fine fettle, reaching out to disaffected youth, but a youth, nevertheless, that couldn’t fork out coin for the album. In the fickle world of the music biz, when the chart-topping ARCTIC MONKEYS were kings of the indie jungle, James’ pleas to his public went virtually unnoticed. On the likes of the tortured and tormented wee gems, `I’d Rather Be Dead (Than Be With You)’ – a call to every spurned lover – `All I Want Is My Baby’, the ballad-y `Choices’, `Youngblood’, and the almost crescendo-SPECTOR-esque title track, would certainly appeal to anyone of the bedroom-tax fraternity. With several listens to the ten recession/romantic-reeling rockers (add to the aforementioned dirges, `Magazine’ and the MBV-like mind-fook closer, `Finished Sympathy’), one shouldn’t exile GLASVEGAS to the environs of some underground bunker just yet.
© MCS Jun-Sep2013

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