Too often, the problem with great live bands is a producer's tendency to turn away from the band's live strengths when in the studio. How many Muse albums left you wondering, “So this is the greatest live band in the world?” after getting killed by modern recording techniques. Arguably, the one Muse album that didn’t do that is 2003’s Absolution. The producer of that album, Rich Costley, has also produced Glasvegas’ eponymous debut. And I’ll be damned if he didn’t give the rising Scottish band one the bravest, most impressively produced debut albums in years.
Co-produced with singer/guitarist/songwriter James Allan (more on him later), Glasvegas sounds and feels like a live show, be it the continuous tracks, the heavy emphasis on Caroline McKay’s primeval, effective drums, and the effect of making an the sound feel like it’s coming from a few feet away. Once upon a time ex-Kingsmen keyboardist Don Gallucci took a much-maligned young band named the Stooges and used a live-sounding production to create a masterpiece out of Fun House. Costley, in turn, has taken the latest NME "it" band -- one that could have easily gotten lost in the pitfalls of preemptive hype -- and thrust them into a vital role in contemporary rock 'n' roll by not trying to sacrifice anything about the band’s unconventional strengths.
And that says nothing for the band itself, or the stunning album these musicians have produced. Despite the emphasis on percussion in the album, Glasvegas revolves around Allan’s gentle voice deceiving you about the violent poetry of the lyrics. His words sound like a combination of hellish medieval verse and Bukowski-esque gutterspeak. You’ll hear "Oh I'm so clever, I'm so clever, I'm so clever/ Until my paranoia kicks in, then I'll accuse her," or "Ain't it the times we are living in/ Everybody's doing it, so why can't I?" If Fall Out Boy sang these lyrics, we’d dismiss them. But thanks to Allan’s alternatingly sweet and guttural Scottish brogue, it never sounds whiny. In fact, it frequently sounds heartbreaking and tragic.
The strengths of Allan and Costley allow Glasvegas the escape some of the flaws (frequent use of clichés, obvious attempts to jerk emotions). The album can frequently stray into Faustian territory with its morseness, which means Glasvegas will likely have a harder time finding an American audience. But if you’ve ever had a rambling internal dialogue and possess something resembling a poetic soul, you’ll die for Glasvegas. (Especially if you have a separate affinity for Oasis or shoegaze.) Right now, I can’t think of a better album to listen to after having a shitty day. Glasvegas is a masterpiece of modern miscreant malaise.
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