Review Summary: Raw visceral dirty Americana country punk with a taste of Celtic FolkBrief History
Glasgow's Sons and Daughters was conceived by Adele Bethel while on tour with Arab Strap in 2001. The band's line-up at first comprised Bethel, David Gow and Ailidh Lennon. Scott Paterson was added later as a second vocalist and guitarist.
Adele Bethel - Vocals, guitar, piano
David Gow - Drums, percussion
Ailidh Lennon - Bass, mandolin, piano
Scott Paterson - Vocals, guitar
You can imagine the scene, a smokey rough bar in Glasgow, the audience ready to tear apart the next indie - favour of the month post punk band to take to the stage. A fight has just broken out. The four members of Sons and Daughters take to the small stage in the corner. Adele introduces the song, probably "Hunt" her voice drown out by drunken shouting and conversation and Scott Paterson strums his guitar and a wall of feedback ploughs the audience into submission. Adele commands the stage like a feral temptress, the audience fearing and lusting her in equal measure. The band frantically run through their set, the pace never slackening in case they lose control over the audience.
It's this same energy and roughness that producer Victor Van Vugt (produced Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Murder Ballads) captures on Sons and Daughters' full length debut The Repulsion Box. It's a fitting choice of producer, as the influence of Nick Cave and in particular his first band is never far away. There are elements of The Birthday Party in aforementioned Hunt, where the band marry Rowland S. Howard feedback to stomping swamp Blues, as well as the Gun Club and PJ Harvey and the Smith's in Taste the Last Girl.
Opener Medicine sets the tone for the rest of the album. Like most songs it's just short of the three minute mark. It speeds along driven by Scott Paterson's urgent and restless guitar. The use of mandolin instead of bass by Ailidh Lennon is a nice touch and adds of touch of folk punk to the song. Adele Bethel however is the real star here. Making no attempt to hide her Scottish accent she sings as if her life depends on it. In fact the entire band play as if this maybe the final performance and at any stage someone will unplug the mics and kick them out of the studio. Red Reciever is an early highlight with nods to the Violet Femmes, capturing the acoustic rawness that Nick Cave felt was missing from Henry's Dream.
Adele manages to create tension from the off as she sings
"Phone phone the red receiver at the end of the bed
it keeps getting clearer Rings
run running around me
Untying the ribbons for the good of the family",
as the story of a missing bride unfolds. Scott Paterson sings the chorus while Adele adds harmony. While Paterson's range is somewhat limited it perfectly completes Adele's more expressive range. The use of only hand claps and Scott and Adele's voices singing "rings around the calender" at the bridge are a nice
touch and offer a slight change of pace. Singles Dance me and Taste the Last Girl are the closest the band gets to a commercial sound and would not be out of place on indie radio stations next to Kings of Leon and The Killers.
Choked slows the tempo slightly but dark and ominous lyrics
"Markings on the door
Then we drop onto the floor
We're waiting we're waiting
You're burying my good name"
accompanied by music that easily switches between Birthday Party style feedback and dark ominous folk hardly offers any reprise. In fact it's this lack of pace that is perhaps Repulsion Box's greatest flaw. The band start at 10 maybe drop to a 9 then crank all the way up to 11. The inclusion of slower songs similar to Awkward Duet on Love the Cup EP would have been welcome. On Monsters gleefully sings "Compassions just a word in a dictionary on your shelf Monogamy to you it seems is just black and blue All the best psychotic lovers ain't got nothing on you!"
The highlight of the album Rama Lama is next. Driven by the rhythm section of David Gow and Ailidh Lennon whose playing, like The Cure's 10.15 Saturday Night, slowly build tension and perfectly mirroring the effect of a dripping tap. Scott Paterson takes lead vocals for the first time adding whistling and Spaghetti Western style guitar as he grabs your attention as he says "Listen" before singing
"On a blue antique night
In early October
His wavy brown hair
Stuck wet to his shoulder
And its click, click, click
Go the heels of his feet"
As the song progresses it becomes clear that it is about a woman who has drown in her bath tub
"How long has it been since the boyfriend has visited
The papers are filling the close
While she’s face down on porcelain
An inchful of bathwater
The neighbours they don’t even know or care
And its drip, drip, drip
Goes the tap on her ankles"
and it was probably by her boyfriend. The song explodes at the chorus as Adele is finally unleashed. The problem is the album climaxes here and what follows fails to live up. Royally used recalls the opening chords of Crime and The City Solution's Room of Lights and features Mandolin and hand claps throughout. Gone saved from being a disappointing closure due to Adele's blood curling scream.
While a lack of variety keeps Repulsion Box from being a classic, Sons and Daughters raw and passionate mix of psycho country punk with elements of Celtic folk make them a fresh breathe from post punk revivalists such as their domino label mates Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys.