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flag Scotland - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 24 - 10/05/98

New Scottish releases

It's been a bit of a quiet month for gigs in Scotland, both from local acts and from tourists, but happily this seems to have coincided with busier times on the record release front following that traditional holiday lull. So we have a flurry of activity here.

Arab Strap have released their final single for Chemikal Underground, and perhaps fittingly for a band moving to a major label, it's an inferior version of a track from their Philophobia album. (Afternoon) Soaps is largely unchanged save a prominent beatbox backing - though it could hardly be called a dance remix. This is done by the band themselves, and on the b-side you get, yes, a couple more remixes of the same song.

Labelmates the Delgados also bring out a single from their album, surprisingly it's not the radio-friendly Arcane Model but instead The Weaker Argument. A fine song, though being in the same vein as their two previous singles, it's unlikely to win them any new fans, though their version of the Incredible String Band's A Very Secular Song on the flipside may attract the curious.

An early release repackaged on CD to prevent unscrupulous people charging over-the-odds for original copies of this unavailable work? No, Tiger Milk (Belle and Sebastian's extremely rare debut) sadly won't be re-released till next year. I mean of course the Beta Band's The Three EP's which are now repackaged as as one CD and at a budget price too, which is pretty good value being as it lasts for 78 minutes. This is in part due to the "epic" Monolith, but with twelve tracks in total, including the 40-at-a-record-fair Champion Versions, this collection of highly varied (though not in a Gomez way) musical styles is certainly worth tracking down.

Speaking of Tiger Milk (as we just were), Belle and Sebastian's The Boy With the Arab Strap is now out, as you may have noticed. I've found that it improves with repeated listens unlike the previous albums which were more instant. To these ears at least the the variation of songwriting styles, while often a good thing, comes as a bit of a shock to the system. I still can't rate the likes of Is It Wicked...? in the same category as, say, Stars of Track and Field, but Spaceboy Dream makes for a very entertaining diversion from that style that we've come to expect from Belle and Sebastian, while Seymour Steins melody in particular is as good as anything Stuart Murdoch came up with previously, while not being immediately recognisable as a Sebs tune.

Still not album of the year, mind you (though I don't expect anything to come close to Spare Snare's latest effort), but though it may sound churlish, not even album of the month. No, that honour goes to the diametrically-opposed first LP from the Poison Sisters, Tarantula Rising. The name of the band, the 'Parental Lyrics Advisory' note, everything points to an almighty punky thrash, though of course this wouldn't be a problem. However, though the likes of Chicane indeed sound a bit like a very lively Joy Division, with more controlled vocals from the rich vocal chords of singer Sandy Blair, there's much more to this album. In fact the LPs starts off, musically at least, a little like the Wedding Present with 76yrs. Many of the songs too are broadly about lost loves, but the comparison ends there, in fact the lyrics and delivery are mildly threatening, and in places surreal. It's the constant switching of styles too that makes this album stand out - Insect Floor is a trip-hop-based nightmare of a spider- ridden room, Lovebug is a spoken story of what the narrator found deep at the earth's core, and Essential Oils might be, or might not be, about a drugs run gone wrong. All this backed up by the aforementioned variety of styles - the near-metal drumming and a lot of stop-start songs, false endings, the lot. The Poison Sisters (three blokes, naturally) have a personality crisis of Rosanne Barr proportions which happily leads to fun for all the family in fact (well, your parents might not like it).

Copyright © 1998 Stuart McHugh e-mail address

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