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flag Scotland - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 25 - 11/04/98

Scotland - a yard report

The nights are fair drawing in now and we start to prepare for the winter hibernation in the frozen North, the number of touring bands increase although gigs of true quality are not so common.

Aberdeen has had its Alternative Festival recently but this has rather lacked music this year, mainly having on theatre and comedy, though the term 'comedy' means space for the likes of John Cooper-Clarke and John Otway - a more entertaining pair of live acts you will be hard pushed to see. And Aberdeen's top indie label Lithium had a showcase night which featured the city's finest including The Needles, who will be re-releasing their Teenage Bomb single later this month "due to popular demand". So apart from a tremendous double-act of Snowpony and Grandaddy in Edinburgh, it's definitely been the time for settling down by the fire in slippers and a cardigan (rather like Mogwai do on-stage) and listening to some new releases.

A mixed bag too - re-release of the month, or any month, goes to Josef K's Endless Soul (Marina) which is a collection of songs from their various radio sessions, some stuff from the Only Fun in Town album, plus the 'lost' LP Sorry for Laughing. Their records have always varied in recording, or to be exact, production quality, so to get the whole lot together and pick up the choicest bits was always a good aim for a compilation, and now the curious, the completist and the newcomer can finally get the definitive Josef K.

Snow Patrol are here by default - from Northern Ireland originally, but by moving to Dundee and then by studying at Stow College, they ended up on Jeepster Records via a similar route to Belle and Sebastian. Unfortunately their name is often mentioned in the same breath as their more revered counterparts, leading to false expectations of music and quality. The music is different for sure, nothing twee about this band. Onlookers sometimes imagine that Belle and Sebastian are typically Scots, in that same vein as the Pastels and Vaselines, until they realise that typical Scottish music is actually a bit grungey, like Urusei Yatsura... or is it lo-fi like Spare Snare or early the Delgados or bis, or maybe rather adventurous like later bis or later Delgados, or perhaps a bit experimental like Mogwai or Ganger? Yes, there's no simple answer, and Snow Patrol's Songs for Polar Bears perhaps flits in and out of many of these categories, but is closest to regular pop music with a hard edge. Certainly no Belle and Sebastian, but I don't think we'd want them to be.

Fiend 3's sleeve reads Caledonian Mystic and this somehow, for all the grandness of the title, describes the music therein rather well. For the uninitiated, Fiend is Brendan O'Hare, plus fellow-ex-Telstar Pony Gavin Laird and the releases are basically reworkings of various recordings made over the years. This album, however seems to be mainly Brendan's work, which becomes obvious when you listen more. The music on the previous 2 albums (Caledonians Gothic and Cosmic Respectively) was at times more 'difficult' than this, which is interesting, as while those albums were recorded at the time of Teenage Fanclub et al, this dates from Mogwai times, pointing to the fact that Fiend acts as the opposite to whatever Brendan and friends are working on at the time. While there are occasional searing noises here which jolt the listener to consciousness, the majority of the album is actually quite pleasing on the ear. (All 3 Fiend albums available on God Bless.)

Finally, the album of the month for many people, though I'm still undecided. Hope is Important (Food Records) is the first album by Edinburgh's Idlewild (not counting their mini-album Captain from last year) and is, as they say, 'eagerly awaited' in many quarters. It's a good LP for sure, and it grows on you - almost every song is on first listen an assault on the eardrums (the band were once memorably described as 'a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs'). Their live act too is frantic and frenetic, and any tunes which were present at the time of conception have had all the hummability kicked out of them by the end of the gig. So Hope ... takes a while, rather like opening your eyes in the twilight, to adjust and pick out shapes of tunes amongst the mass of sound before you. There are a few singles on here and the album clocks in at around 35 minutes, but the singles, as having the most discernible structure, are vital to the album, and I'm a Message and Film for the Future ease the listener into the deeper shark-infested hidden depths. There's even what might (carefully) be described as a ballad - I'm Happy to be Here Tonight is a Roddy Frame-style slow burner, which may not enamour the devoted members of the mosh pit, but ain't half bad for all that.

So, will the Scottish correspondents venture outside of their warm listening lounge to the icy hinterland next month? Depends what's out there...

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