Having ridden a mountain of critical and publicist-generated hype as well as U.K. chart success into the North American market like so many other British bands, Glasvegas offer a bombastic, angsty self-titled debut filled with earnest emotion and pounding Wall of Sound dynamics. And as with so many of their peers, the reality doesn't completely match the hype, as the band sometimes struggle to create anything as vital as the work of the artists that influenced them. Still, there's charm and energy to spare, and some wonderful singles on an album that some might consider overly samey and in some spurts seemingly lazy. Getting past the impressionist black-and-white front sleeve that wrongly suggests another Joy Division tribute band, there might be nothing innovative about the Glasvegas' musical style, but at least their influences make for an interesting mix. Though frontman James Allan's accent betrays his Scottish nationality, his delivery and the group's anthemic playing immediately and somewhat uncannily recall Cork, Ireland's comparatively overlooked the Frank and Walters. Where they lack the wit of that band, for better or worse, they compensate at times with urgency and ample doses of '60s era Phil Spector humming choruses that bring to mind a rocking male version of the Ronettes, thunderous percussion, and stream of conscious lyrics peppered with patches cribbed from the past. Many critics have mentioned a similarity to shoegazer gods the Jesus and Mary Chain, but that's mostly a byproduct of Allan and co-producer Rich Costey's busy production. Album opener "Flowers and Football Tops" is the best example of all these elements, with its Spector-like "woo hoos" and everything but the kitchen sink percussion. There are obvious hints of U2 in the song's anthemic, emotional subject matter and equally colossal production. It relates the sorrow of the family of a young Scottish teenager kidnapped and murdered by a racially motivated gang. Knowing the backstory adds quite a bit of power to a song that's already powerful, and the touching conclusion where Allan sings a considerable passage of "You Are My Sunshine" might seem laughable not knowing the song's origin. A handful of tracks pack a similar power, particularly "Geraldine," with its catchy but sorrowful chorus of "My name is Geraldine, I'm you're social worker," and the rushing Brill building-on-steroids of "Go Square Go" with its slightly crude but invigorating repetition of "here we, here we, here we fucking go again." The album's first half has about twice and much energy as its second, and things nearly grind to a halt with the musical misstep of classical piano on "Stabbed," but listening closer to the melodies below the noisy squall reveals songs like "S.A.D. Light" and "Daddy's Gone" to be winning growers. The slower moments of these songs are nearly drowned out by the heavy-handed production. Costey knows his way around a studio and how to extract sonic muscle, but there's a sense of grabbing at times as the Spector aping goes over the top. Some might question why so much sonic assault is necessary when the songs are already so strong. The lyrics and song structures are anthemic enough, and the busy production drives some fine, near ballad-like numbers into overwrought territory. The emotional clarity, everyman anthems, and often glorious melodies of Glasvegas suggests Allan and company have a bright future ahead of them with or without the Baroque production.
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AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina