Review Summary: Scottish teens ham it up for their Arctic Monkeys/Libertines-inspired debut
Give yourself a clap Scotland, you’ve found your niche. After centuries of laying down for any ethnic group stupid enough to wield an axe in their general direction, the Scots finally hit upon something in the ‘80s, spitting out a mouthful of something other than chunks of stomach, a sweet-smelling post-punk cocktail that featured the likes of Orange Juice, Josef K and, best of all, Aztec Camera. Never the fastest-working bunch, in fact rarely working at all, the Scots took it easy for a decade or so. Franz Ferdinand reign supreme, while The Fratellis struck it big last year with Costello Music
, but it seems hyped-to-the-eyeballs act The View are the act set to ignite the second wave of Scottish post-punk with their riotous debut Hats Off To The Buskers.
And why not? Sure, isn’t Scotland the birthplace of abject urban misery?
The View have courted comparisons between themselves and last year’s indie success story Arctic Monkeys. Both groups graduated from the Libertines school of poppy punk (Doherty has long-since installed himself as The View’s mentor), though the one is far closer to the Pete & Carl style than the hard rock leanings of the Monkeys. Still, similarities exist, particularly between Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and Kyle Falconer, the bepermed singer/guitarist of the Dundee group. Falconer’s chatty vocal style highlights his thick Caledonian brogue, a tried-and-tested technique that’s almost become a pre-requisite in modern British rock. Still, Falconer has more weapons in his vocal armoury than Turner; ‘Street Lights’ demonstrates a subtlety that calls to mind Lee Mavers of The La’s or, if you listen more closely, a young Liam Gallagher.
And they’ve have done little to play down the Oasis influence inviting Owen Morris, who famously manned the decks for Oasis’ debut record Definitely Maybe
and The Verve’s almost-masterpiece A Northern Soul
, to produce the record. Opener ‘Comin’ Down’ captures the same sort of chaos as Oasis did on ‘Columbia’ and ‘Bring It on Down,’ however where Definitely Maybe
was tightly mixed to ensure this energy was communicable, Hats Off To The Buskers
frequently falls into barely-produced punk rock territory. ‘Comin’ Down’ is a prime example and ‘Skag Trendy’ is likely to test the warranty on any set of speakers.
Never afraid to be obvious with their intentions, Hats Off To The Buskers
is noticeably top-heavy, shoving three singles into the first six tracks. Debut ‘Wasted Little DJs’ (thank heavens for small graces- they didn’t use an apostrophe) is an irresistible pop number, owing a lot to The Cult, the riff and solo borrowing heavily from ‘She Sells Sanctuary,’ and a little to Gary Lightbody’s double-vocal style while adding to the mix an incomprehensible chorus that reads: ”Astedwae Ittlae Ejaysdae.”
The guitar melody of ‘Superstar Tradesman’ could be taken from either of the first two Strokes records, and probably was, while breakthrough hit ‘Same Jeans’ is the best of the bunch, though only because it borrows liberally from Cornershop’s classic ‘Brimful of Asha.’
The rest of the record throws up few surprises. ‘Wasteland’ may be the only example of Scottish ska deemed safe enough to commit to record and ‘Face for the Radio’ is a witty and strongly melodic number that recalls Hurricane #1’s brilliant but unappreciated ‘Monday Afternoon’ and even turns up hints of Jet, but for the most part Hats Off To The Buskers
is second-tier British post-punk. The similarities between The View and Arctic Monkeys, and particularly The Libertines, are more than simple coincidence and, if ‘Skag Trendy’ is anything to go by, they’re more than prepared to exploit the “real accents” angle, whatever the overall effect. And that’s essentially the problem with Hats Off To The Buskers
: it doesn’t feel as natural as Arctic Monkeys’ or The Libertines’ efforts and, given how inconsistently the album plays, there’s little to recommend it above them.