Strange Weather Lately

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The debut album by Glasgow's Astrid follows three EPs, no songs from which are included here. Although the Nick Drake and Sarah Records-influenced twee pop of Belle and Sebastian was getting the majority of the Scottish music industry press in 1999, Astrid's considerably peppier sound has much more in common with earlier Glaswegian heroes as Teenage Fanclub or the BMX Bandits. Obviously '60s-influenced (the band is named after famous Beatle girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr, after all) but not at all slavishly retro in the manner of Oasis, this teenage quartet mix their Merseybeatisms (dig the jangly guitars and close harmonies of "Plastic Skull," which sounds like what the La's album might have if it had been properly finished, or "Like a Baby," which sounds exactly like an early Kinks B-side) with enough odd synth wiggles and snippets of feedback and noise to make it clear what decade this was recorded in. The lyrics are nothing special, but neither are they particularly dopey, and the amount of variety in the band's arrangements (the mix of William Campbell's electric and Charles Clark's acoustic guitar adds depth to their basic sound) and Edwyn Collins' production keeps Strange Weather Lately from sounding as samey as many other albums in this style. Strange Weather Lately found a fair amount of critical and commercial success in the U.K., but the fact that an album this melodically satisfying and sonically interesting could not find an American distributor simply boggles the mind.

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