CD Review of Glasvegas by Glasvegas
Glasvegas: Glasvegas
Recommended if you like
Black Rebel Motorcyle Club, Jesus and Mary Chain, Dirty Pretty Things
Label
Sony
Glasvegas: Glasvegas

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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adies and gentlemen, boys and girls, here they are: Glasvegas, your first big hype band of 2009!

If you spend any time reading music sites – and clearly you do – you probably noticed that at some point between the end of 2008 and the dawn of ’09, a silent signal was passed, letting the blogosphere’s forward-focused writers know that it was time to start pimping the dickens out of the Scottish band’s full-length debut, eagerly awaited by Brit-rock fans since the 2007 release of their first single, "Daddy’s Gone." Music writers desperate for something to cover during the post-holiday lull have swarmed over Glasvegas, giving it more column inches than any UK release from a young band since Oasis’ Definitely Maybe (an album with which, not coincidentally, Glasvegas has been audaciously compared). We are, unfortunately, a few weeks late to the party – but there’s still time to assess the album objectively before the inevitable Great Glasvegas Backlash of ’09 begins, so let’s get started.

To begin with, it bears mentioning that Sony showed a too-rare flash of marketing genius when it scheduled Glasvegas’ American bow for January 6; if it had come out at almost any other point in the year, it would have been sandwiched between releases from name-brand artists and lost in the shuffle. This is partly due to Glasvegas’ baby-band status, and partly because the album, while certainly not bad, isn’t worthy of all the four-star reviews. It does, however, rely heavily on the sort of contempt for irony and huge, rafters-rattling melodies that have always made rock critics go cuckoo – it’s a record that reflects a palpable yearning to edify, to tie into the sort of spiritual third rail that powered, say, U2’s The Joshua Tree.

Glasvegas

That sort of widescreen ‘80s bombast is a good reference point for Glasvegas, actually; although the band’s fondness for fuzzed-out guitars and cymbal-soaked drum tracks have drawn a lot of comparisons to the Jesus and Mary Chain and/or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Glasvegas probably has more in common – at least emotionally – with Big Country, and not just because of lead singer James Allan’s thick brogue. Like Big Country, Glasvegas doesn’t just wear its heart on its sleeve – it tries to tear it off, rip it into tiny pieces, and send each one directly to a listener. It’s such an anachronistic attitude that it actually sounds fresh; music this unabashedly skyward-reaching hasn’t been heard outside the contemporary Christian sphere for years.

And here’s the amazing part: Glasvegas actually manages to pull it off a few times. Glasvegas is full of stuff that look ridiculous on paper – the atonal bit of "You Are My Sunshine" that pads the end of "Flowers & Football Tops," the reference to "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" tucked into "S.A.D. Light," the chant of "here we, here we, here we fucking go" that serves as the emotional climax of "Go Square Go" – but when it’s coming through the speakers, it can sound something like miraculous.

But the million-dollar question is whether the band can keep it up for an entire album, and the answer, at least this time out, is "of course not." Glasvegas has some transcendent moments, but it also makes plenty of room for songs that either sound more ridiculous than they look (the Moody Blues-worthy spoken-word piece "Stabbed") or sputter madly in search of a meaningful resolution ("Ice Cream Van," "The Prettiest Thing on Saltcoats Beach"). It’s the sort of album that can deliver a powerful rush with its first or second listen, but becomes more ordinary with repeated spins. It’s hard not to admire what Glasvegas is trying to do here, and they deserve credit for proving they’re a band worth keeping an ear on – but that doesn’t make Glasvegas more than the sum of its parts. Download the good parts, skip the rest.

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