Glasvegas injected some rare social realism into indie music when their first album debuted in 2008. Since then, the Glaswegian four-piece have had some issues with which to deal. In 2009, front man James Allan briefly disappeared and later overdosed, and then in 2010 the band’s drummer, Caroline McKay, was mysteriously replaced by Jonna Löfgren. But singer-songwriter Allan doesn’t allow things to get bogged down in naval-gazing misery. ‘Shine Like Stars’, a song with a thrashing drum beat and a cosmic wall of sound shows plainly that this is certainly a more confident vocalist and one that trusts in his ability to show joy. The album’s centre-piece, ‘Euphoria Take My Hand’, is a moving rejection of sadness in which full exercise is given to the singer’s strong, strident range of vocals as he dips in and out of minor chords with soaring self-possession.
It isn’t all hope and happiness though. Following on from the band’s take on issues ranging from murder to social work on their last record, this one has two songs on it which focus on homophobia, something that the genre has barely touched upon but which Glasvegas tackles with refreshing boldness. Rhythmic jangles of tambourine accompany heartfelt lyrics in ‘I Feel Wrong (Homosexuality, Pt. 1)’, with fluid synth distorting into a fuzzy, faltering ending.
It must be said however, that occasionally you want the lyrics to be a bit richer and more diverse. Allan never sounds anything less than sincere, sometimes painfully so, but ‘Lots Sometimes’ is annoyingly repetitious and ‘Whatever Hurts You Through The Night’, if displaying an enjoyably stadium-filling sound, edges into the banal lyrically. Likewise, the ambient, sample driven echoing preface to ‘Pain Pain Never Again’ is a false promise when it comes to experimentalism. Despite the band using Allan’s mum to do a spoken word piece as a youth offender’s consoling mother at the very end of the album, the effort, like with a lot of the lyrics, hits an unfortunately dud note.
On the whole though, there is a foot tapping, head-nodding goodness to this melodic new sound. While the valiant social ventriloquisms are still there, it feels like this is definitely Allan’s record; and one in which he fully and emotively inhabits himself as a vocalist.