The Art Of Deception: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks Ten Writers Telling Lies…

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In the latest podcast Ali talks to Jim and Pat Byrne and Samina Chaudry about Ten Writers Telling Lies,  a music and literary project which has various writers and poets work collected together, as well as having them collaborate with Jim on accompanying songs.

On the podcast you’ll not only hear all about the project, its beginnings and how it has grown, but there are also a couple of examples of Jim’s songs*, as well as Samina reading her short story, ‘Taxi’. It’s a fascinating undertaking which deserves to be read and heard by as many people as possible.

Other writers involved include Pat herself, Stephanie Brown, James Carson, James Connarty, previous podcast guest Pauline Lynch, Calum Maclean, Gillian Margaret Mayes, Michael Norton and Stephen Watt, and there’s a heartfelt foreword from Louise Welsh and Zoe Strachan. It’s a collection of different voices, styles and narratives which come together to make an even greater whole.

Mention must also be made of artisit Pam McDonald whose work gives the book such a strong visual identity, which you can sees for yourself in the YouTube version below. This is a project which caught our imagination as soon as we heard about it, and I hope that after listening to the podcast you’ll be equally intrigued.

If you aren’t yet a subscriber to the SWH! podcast you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes or by RSS. You can also download it by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on…

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..or on YouTube:

*Due to unforseen technical difficulties the final song we were going to include at the end of the podcast, a collaboration between Jim and Samina called ‘Oh, My Beautiful You’, is missing, but you can hear it in all its glory below:

The official launch of Ten Writers Telling Lies is on Thursday night at Cottiers’ Theatre in Glasgow, and although the stories and songs work beautifully in book/cd format, what a treat to be able to hear them in a live setting:

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And to give you a further taste of what to expect on the night of the launch, here’s a short trailer:

SWH! will be at Cottiers on the night so if you see us there come and say hello…

New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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My, but there’s some classy music being made out there. The world may be falling down around our ears, but it’s got a hell of a soundtrack to accompany it. Who would have thought the end of days could sound this good?

The majority of those who feature in this roundup have appeared before, but we make no excuses for that as they all have excellent new music to share, and we have impeccable taste. Too much? Listen below and say we’re not right…

This Saturday (22nd April) is Record Store Day when you’ll be offered all sorts of collectibles and rarities to prise your hard-earned from your back pocket. It’s going to be an overwhelming choice, so let SWH! help by cutting the glorious wheat from the acres of chaff. This is the day Teen Canteen release their latest EP Sirens on Last Night From Glasgow, and having heard it I can guarantee you it will rank among your favourite records of the year, or your money back*.

It builds on the brilliance of their debut album, Say It All With A Kiss, to take the music to another level. From Sirens this is ‘Millions’, and it’s reminiscent of so many records while being unmistakably Teen Canteen. It’s classic pop made by people who understand intrinsically what that entails, and which manages to lift you up while at the same time breaking your heart. A shock of hair and a trip into space? This is what it sounds like:

It seems a long time coming, but the mighty WHITE‘s debut album One Night Stand Forever is out on 21st April, and it’s destined to become a great Scottish pop record to stand alongside classic albums such as Can’t Stand The Rezillos, New Gold Dream and Franz Ferdinand – one packed full of singles and songs which you just can’t get out of your head. Filthy, funny, furious, and quite possibly dangerous to know, if there’s a riot going on WHITE are just the band to get wired in. From the album this is the title track:

Another band making great singles are wojtek the bear. They last featured on these pages with ‘Dead From The Waist Up’ and their latest is further evidence that they are a band with whom you should be acquainted. Where others would turn everything up to 11 they understand that less is usually more, and allow the melodies, the harmonies and the heart in their music to shine. A fine live act to boot, wojtek the bear look to be in it for the long haul making music which sounds like them, and only them. This is ‘Trivial Pursuit’:

We have long been fans of The Strange Blue Dreams at SWH!, so new music from them is always greeted with an array of whoops, cheers and hollers. Previously on these pages we have said, “Taking ’50s influences and rockabilly stylings and adding a dash of country, (and even some southern gothic), to proceedings, they are one of the tightest and most captivating bands around. Exuding effortless cool, and knowingly noir – if you get the chance to see them live you really must.” Their new EP Towards The Warm Place shows that those claims were well warranted and deserved. If you need further convincing, here is one of the tracks from the EP, ‘In My Nature’:

Are you a Looper? If you are you’re amongst friends here, and the band of the very same name are back with ‘Farfisa Song’ which is taken from their new album Offgrid:Offline, released on 12th May. You know what Looper do – create lo-fi electronic magic which appears effortless, timeless and which is oddly reassuring. The world is a better place with Looper around, and it seems we need them now more than ever. No pressure…

You can still hear our podcast with Karn and Stuart from 2015, but before you go there listen to ‘Farfisa Song’, and pay special attention to the video. It sees the introduction of Mustard & Ketchup, a couple of badgers surely destined for great things, and who are the creation of master animator Iain Gardner – he’ll go far that boy:

The indie singer/songwriter market is a crowded one where it is tough to stand out and be heard. In recent times those who have done so include Mark W. Georgsson and Michael Cassidy, and to those you can add the name of Conor Heafey. He manages to pull off that difficult trick of making an instantly recognisable style sound brand-new and fresh. To these ears, it reminds me of some of my favourite North Americans such as Matthew Sweet, Ron Sexsmith and Richard Buckner. He even made me think of The Wondermints for the first time in years, for which I am very grateful. This is the title track to his forthcoming EP The Game, out on May 1st. It’s got the feel of an instant classic, a welcome and deserved addition to the soundtrack of the summer.

We’ll finish as we started with glorious electronic pop music from the label known as LNFG, whose run of releasing great records shows no sign of ending any time soon (tune in next time for further proof). The song is from BooHooHoo who now come with their own guarantee of quality. This includes live performances and if you get the chance to see them you simply must or you’re a fool to yourself.

The latest single is ‘Fire’ which sounds like a young Depeche Mode, Ari Up and Peter Hook were sent to the present day to play for our pleasure. That’s the Dr Who episode you want to see. BooHooHoo are making strong claims to be your favourite band, you may just not be aware of that yet. Listen to ‘Fire’ and accept the inevitable. Resistance is futile, if I may mix my sci-fi references:

That’s all for now, but the spots for the next review are filling up already so if you have some new music you think would interest us, send it our way to scotswhayhae@gmail.com and we’ll give it a spin…

*Claim made late in the evening, possibly with drink taken, and not legally binding.

Future Present Tense: A Review Of Kenneth Steven’s 2020…

2020_cover.jpgLet’s begin at the end. On the final page of Kenneth Steven’s novel 2020 there is a significant Publisher’s Note which states, “Difficult though it may be to believe, the novel was not directly inspired either by the Brexit referendum or by the more recent events in Europe, the USA and around the world.” It is an interesting addendum, and understandable as there is little doubt that many would jump to the conclusion which it refutes. The reason being that Kenneth Steven has written a novel which so fits the here and now that it feels like his 2020 could be just around the corner.

I write this review the day a general election has been called, one which promises further division and increasingly extreme reactions to events and statements as people are preoccupied with individual political issues rather than along party lines, and it needs only a small leap of imagination to think that what transpires in 2020 could become prophetic.

In 2020, Britain is divided along lines where traditional politics are no longer fit for purpose. The novel centres around a terrible event which is used by some to ignite simmering tensions in parts of the country which are all too recognisable, and the rise of an individual who comes to represent a place and a group of people who think themselves ignored. It put me in mind of Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta and Louise Welsh’s current ‘Plague Times’ Trilogy. They all deal with events whose cause is not clear in terms of the details, but which is in turn used for political, and at times personal, gain, and the human cost be damned.

Steven’s novel is less extreme in terms of plot and point of view than those other books, but that only increases its power and effect, and its potential prescience. This is accentuated by the style and structure. Steven uses a series of talking heads – interviews with people who have been directly affected by, or have some link to, the events and the people who are under investigation. The short sharp sentences of everyday speech give what unfolds a directness which carries with it real emotion. There are simple words and phrases which are repeated throughout, such as “fighting”, “political correctness”, “law” and “justice”, which become loaded terms when given context by an individual, their meaning changing on a voice-by-voice basis.

Steven’s decision to structure the novel as he does is clever and challenging. He manages to make each voice recognisable, individual and, most importantly, believable. It means, you are faced with such an array of viewpoints that your own will be challenged and you are left to examine your preconceptions which inevitably come into play. It also means that trying to get to the ‘truth’ of the events, should such a thing exist, means looking past the prejudices and pride of those speaking and attempting to separate them from what is really being professed. However, Steven never allows you to lose sight of the bigger picture even though the focus shifts continuously.

2020 may not be a response to any one particular event, vote or election, but it certainly reflects aspects of modern Britain both in the specifics and in a more general manner. Political fiction of this kind has been all too rare in recent times, which is odd considering the raw material available. There have been the odd exceptions such as Craig A. Smith’s The Mile, and Philip Miller’s latest All The Galaxies, but 2020 could not be more appropriate and necessary. An honest and at times horrific view of the state of the nation, but run through with humanity and ultimately hope, Kenneth Steven has written a parable for our times, and one which we would do well to take note of.

Back And Forth: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To David Keenan…

bHQj2XzwFor the latest podcast Ali spoke to writer David Keenan about his novel This Is Memorial Device. Anyone who has read the Scots Whay Hae! review of the book will know how highly we rate it, and it’s fascinating to hear David talk about the influences behind it, why it was always going to be an Airdrie novel, the reasons the book is structured as it is, and so much more.

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The two race through many subjects, including the legacy of post-punk, the importance of the art and music of Scottish small towns and David’s compulsion to write. This includes further novels, his journalism, and non-fiction,  (England’sHidden Reverse  is especially highly recommended) although whether talk of a West Of Scotland take on Lord Of The Rings is serious we’ll leave for you to decide.

We’re calling it one of the most interesting and engaging podcasts yet, but listen for yourselves and see if that’s a bold claim or not. If you aren’t intrigued enough by the end to read This Is Memorial Device then, frankly, we haven’t done our job.

If you aren’t yet a subscriber to the SWH! podcast you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes or by RSS. You can also download it by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on…

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..or on YouTube:

Our next podcast will be with you very soon, so keep ’em peeled…

Take The High Road: A Preview Of Ashley Cook’s Step We Gaily, On We Go Exhibition…

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If you’re thinking about where to go and what to see this Easter weekend then the place to be is The Braemar Gallery for Ashley Cook‘s exhibition Step We Gaily, On We Go which has its opening from 2.30pm on Saturday 15th April and which runs to the 29th May.

For this exhibition, Ashley has taken some of Scotland’s best known and loved imagery and given it a modern makeover with a very personal twist, and where better to exhibit such work than the place many consider to be the heart of Scotland, both geographically and historically.

A gathering place for Kings and Queens from the 11th century to this day, Braemar is also the area Lord Byron holidayed as a child(e), where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, and where the legend who was Tom Weir could be found stravaiging the landscape in his bobble hat.

Ashley’s work looks to the past to suggest a better future, and with a style, substance and sense of humour which is distinctly her own. I could say more, but as pictures paint thousands of words it would be better to show rather than tell. These are just a small selection as to the work on show:

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If you mention Scots Whay Hae! when you visit The Braemar Gallery you’re guaranteed a warm welcome, a firm handshake, and a discussion on the life and work of Brian Eno. It’s a fine place to spend your time, but then we would say that. And if you wonder where the hell Braemar is and how you get there, here you go…

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Isle Be There: A Review Of David F. Ross’s The Man Who Loved Islands…

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Those who have read David F. Ross’s first two novels The Last Days Of Disco and The Rise & Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas  will approach his third with anticipation, excitement but also a little regret as it promises to be the closing part of his “Disco Days” trilogy which means no more Max Mojo, Bobby Cassidy or Joey Miller and no more music from Heatwave Disco or The Miraculous Vespas. But put aside those fears for now and rest assured that if The Man Who Loved Islands is to be their swan song, they are leaving the stage in some style.

This is a more mature book than the other two in both content and approach. Having previously been taken back to the ’80s we are now in, or are at least quickly approaching, the present day, aside from some timely flashbacks to explain how we got here. While once the main characters had their life before them, for the most part full of promise and potential, Ross now concentrates on them as 50-something men reflecting back on their lives and finding them wanting.

The Man Who Loved Islands examines the enduring nature of those defining friendships that you can count on one hand. The ones which are as much part of you as any family bonds, and perhaps more so. At the centre of events are the two central male friendships in Bobby Cassidy’s life, and when taken together they are an astute commentary on a recognisable character in Scottish culture – the west-of-Scotland male, somone who is loyal to a fault but also quick to take offence. These are individuals for whom harsh words and perceived and received slights are not easily forgotten or forgiven.

Ross has a forensic eye for detail which makes what he writes ring true. When commenting on the ageing process Joseph Miller looks at himself and notes, “His skin, his teeth, and – bizarrely – his fingernails have all degenerated as if his body was a squalid apartment recently acquired by Peter Rachman.” It’s a typical Ross sentence. That third detail about the fingernails is exactly the sort of extra element that many other writers would miss, relying on the more readily known and clichéd observations. It is then finished with a darkly humorous flourish of the sort this writer seems to have to spare.

In the first part of the book matters jump between present day and the previous decades, with Bobby and Hamish “Hammy” May’s time in Ibiza particularly well observed. It may resemble Wham!’s ‘Club Tropicana’ video at times; all tans, teeth, statement t-shirts, espadrilles and extended mixes, but if you were there, or near, that was what it was like. A large part of this exactitude comes from the writer’s encyclopaedic knowledge and love of music which he uses to get time and place spot on. As with the first two novels music is as much a character as any person.

The Man Who Loved Islands opens with a quote from The Jam’s ‘Thick As Thieves’, and it strikes me that Ross writes like a storytelling songwriter, managing to relay times, people and places in paragraphs and chapters rather than verse and chorus, but the result is the same. I keep thinking of how Springsteen tells stories about specific characters, more often than not from small towns, in his songs, and if The Last Days Of Disco was Ross’s The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, then The Man Who Loved Islands could be seen as his Wrecking Ball. Those who haven’t read Ross yet may see this as a stretch, but I can’t shake the feeling that he is more influenced by his record collection than by any novelists, and it shows. And it works. The reason that music means so much to the central characters is because it does to the writer, and once more he includes a playlist as an appendix which makes for the perfect accompaniment while reading.

There are less of the japes, scrapes and one-liners that are to be found in the earlier work (although pleasingly they are not jettisoned entirely), but they are replaced by pathos and poignancy which is bound to accompany the passing of time. There are also sections here which catch you by surprise such as Joseph’s writing on the nature of Chinese democracy (the political system, not the Guns ‘N’ Roses album), the cult of the “Blood Oranges”, and Bobby and Hammy’s brief but successful musical career, but you are never allowed to forget what is driving the novel – the characters and their determination to put right past wrongs and do right by those who they love and who they hope still love them.

The Man Who Loved Islands is David F. Ross’s best novel to date, but it also offers the promise of even greater things for the future. This is a writer who is improving with each book. Here, the sentences are tighter, the jump from character to character and between time periods is clear, the humanity at the heart is never lost in the plot, and he even makes what should be an unbelievable event seem perfectly plausible. But his greatest achievement is to have characters grow old in a manner which is not just believable, but recognisable, empathetic and moving. They are clearly still those boys and girls we met in the early ’80s, but, as with all of us, growing up and growing old hasn’t been as easy as they once thought it would be.

The launch of The Man Who Loved Islands will be at The Admiral Bar in Glasgow where Ali from Scots Whay Hae! will be in discussion with David F. Ross before a book signing and a night of great music:C8utepuXcAA-k04.jpgSee you there…

Breaking Glass: A Review Of Nasty Women…

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404 Ink’s collection of essays, Nasty Women, is unlike any other you’ll read this year, and probably for the foreseeable future. That in itself is a reason for its existence and its importance. Collecting accounts from various contributors, it comments not only on “what it is to be a woman in the 21st century”, but, when taken as whole, it asks any reader to consider their own attitudes and beliefs on a range of subjects, both specific and general. It’s also a reminder that the written word is the most nuanced, complex and complete way to tell stories and relay truths.

The importance of Punk is visited throughout. The ideas and ideals of the movement – (which have always been more important than the music itself) often mask a reality where individual and collective sexist and often abusive behaviour betray those professed principles. This is nothing new, and I recommend Cosey Fanni Tutti’s biography Art Sex Music and particularly Viv Albertine’s memoir Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys as evidence of this. In the latter Albertine describes how she and her fellow Slits were patronised and attacked, from inside as well as out. What they refused to be was ignored.

In Nasty Women, Ren Aldridge’s ”Touch Me Again And I Will Fucking Kill You”: Cultural Resistance To Gendered Violence In The Punk Rock Community.’ sets out a similar scenario in an unforgettable manner. It is one of the most exacting pieces I have read in a long time, challenging the notion of self-image versus an individual’s actions. If you have ever considered yourself a “good person” as part of your identity, Aldridge makes you confront the truth, how you actually treat other people rather than any superficial ipseity. Aldridge identifies something which is rarely broached – sexism and gendered violence within liberal groups and societies, and the self-delusion which allows them to endure. Labels do not guarantee commensurate actions, and it is the latter which define us most.

Kirsty Diaz’s chapter ‘Why I’m No Longer A Punk Rock “Cool Girl”‘ looks at how there are roles being played in Punk as with anywhere else. Her description as to what is expected of ‘Cool Girls’, (a notion she borrows from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl) says that she must, “..like real music. Good music […] She doesn’t listen to pop music […] She can hang out with your musician mates and hold her own in a conversation, but she won’t point out the ways in which even punk rock, this glorious utopia, has the capacity to oppress. And, much like the original concept, she’s not real.”. Such fantasy figures are all too identifiable in modern culture (the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a similar creation), and they prevent individual recognition in favour of a fantastical type.

Using the above definition, perhaps the ultimate ‘cool girl’ was Courtney Love, at least before she was labelled in the media as anything ranging from succubus to murderer. Becca Inglis’ ‘Love In The Time Of Melancholia’ looks at Love’s life and public image, and how someone who means so much to the writer and many others has been publicly hounded and ridiculed. Perhaps the most telling accusation, or at least the one which seems most common, is that Kurt Cobain wrote most of her best songs and music. This is a familiar claim – see Carly Simon & James Taylor, or Justine Frischmann & Damon Albarn. Not only are the women not allowed to be viewed as artists in their own right, their position as a role model is lessened, something which can only have detrimental results culturally.

The idea that there are roles set out for women that society expects them to fulfil, and if they don’t they risk being ostracised, is revisited throughout Nasty Women. Laura Waddell’s insightful ‘Against Stereotypes: Working Class Girls And Working Class Art’ looks at the inherent restraints to learning and employment in the arts for the working class in a capitalist economic system, a situation which is only getting worse as arts funding is cut alongside that for tertiary education. Nothing restricts individuals more than lack of opportunity, and economic restraints are the most effective means of this. As Waddell surmises, the result is that whole sections of society risk being silenced and sidelined further than they already are. If there are no stories being told about your immediate society then where does inspiration and understanding come from for future generations?

The link between the psychological and the physical is another recurring theme in Nasty Women. Jen McGregor’s ‘Lament: Living With The Consequences Of Contraception’ is a superb piece of writing which looks at how society’s expectations rarely allow for individual choices, and how that can have repercussions which are tangibly dangerous. It’s also about abuse, but not in the manner you may initially believe. Chitra Ramaswamy’s ‘Afterbirth’ looks at pregnancy as a physical and psychological state of being. This is a subject which bizarrely still carries more than a hint of being taboo, and is a primary example of a story rarely told but relevant to all.

Nadine Aisha Jassat’s ‘On Naming’ deals with something equally essential, the importance of an individual’s name to their identity, both self and for others. Taking the care to learn how another person’s name is pronounced may seem to some unimportant, but there are few things more important. It’s about respect, recognition, and acknowledging that the other person is an equal. Refusing to do so does just the opposite. Language defines who and what we are, and how we use it and how it is used against us is of huge import. It gets to the heart of how people view and respect one another, and Jassat’s chapter is another example of a piece of writing which makes you look at yourself anew.

The spectre of Donald Trump hangs over the book, as his description of Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman” in their final presidential debate was partly an ‘inspiration’. It’s still astonishing and utterly depressing that such utterances seemed to boost his popularity rather than destroy it. Just imagine he had been caught boasting about how he grabs men “by the cock” and consider if he would now be in charge of nuclear codes.  Somehow I doubt it. The rise of Trump is examined by Elise Hines in ‘Adventures Of A Half-Black Yank In America’, where she bemoans the role of some women voters in his election, as well as depicting the institutional, and often unthinkingly casual, racism which still exists in the US, and elsewhere, today.

I have only just touched upon the tales told in this book so for goodness sake get a copy for yourself to get the bigger picture. It looks closely at identity, race, gender, immigration, class, sexual violence, pregnancy, contraception, family, and so much more – all of which we need a greater understanding of and essays such as these can only aid that understanding. Those who would claim that Nasty Women is anything other than essential reading simply haven’t read it. The stories are extraordinary in a manner which is two-fold – in their honesty and their rarity. These are voices which are seldom heard in the mainstream, despite what some may claim. It’s a book which refuses to deal in binary opposites, offering no simple answers for the simple reason there are none. It promotes constant questioning of ourselves and of others. That’s the only way to understand each other better. That’s the truth.

New Musical Success Special: The Premiere of The Strange Blue Dreams’ In My Nature…

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We have long been fans of The Strange Blue Dreams at SWH!, so new music from them is always greeted with whoops, cheers and hollers. Previously on these pages we have said, “Taking ’50s influences and rockabilly stylings and adding a dash of country, (and even some southern gothic), to proceedings, they are one of the tightest and most captivating bands around. Exuding effortless cool, and knowingly noir – if you get the chance to see them live you really must.”

Well now you can see if they are as good as our word as Holy Smokes presents the launch of The Strange Blue Dreams’ new EP Towards The Warm Place at MacSorleys in Glasgow, Saturday 8th April. If you need further convincing, here is an exclusive play of one of the tracks, ‘In My Nature’:

Yesterday Once More: A Review Of David Keenan’s This Is Memorial Device…

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What makes a cult novel is hard to define, but here goes. It will alienate as many people as it attracts. It will pitch itself against the status quo, answering the question “What are you against?” with “What have you got?”. It will display attitude, angst, anger and alienation. Such novels are often culturally aware and precisely of their time, yet the best ones are timeless. They are also unapologetic in their attitude of not giving a fuck. You either get it or you don’t. If you don’t, move on – nothing for you here.

Great Scottish cult novels include Alexander Trocchi’s Young Adam, Toni Davidson’s Scar Culture, Martin Millar’s Lux The Poet, and Duncan McLean’s Bunker ManAnd then there’s Trainspotting, which is a reminder that cult does not necessarily mean unknown. Way before the film it was a book which was handed around school playgrounds, and shoplifted from John Menzies. Cult novels should be infamous, not necessarily unfamous or obscure. A Clockwork Orange, Naked Lunch and American Psycho can all be called cult, but are also best-sellers. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road is his great cult novel, rather than the lesser known Doctor Sax. This is because the former chimed with and helped define the Beat Generation, and the latter shows that hanging out at William Burroughs’ house can seriously damage your muse.

If, as some people claim, “You just know a cult novel when you see it”, then David Keenan’s This is Memorial Device literally wears its credentials on its sleeve with a reference on the cover to Iggy Pop, and quotes from Andrew O’Hagan, John Niven, Alan Warner and avant-garde artist and Throbbing Gristle member Cosey Fanni Tutti. It just so happens I’ve started reading Cosey Fanni Tutti’s autobiography Art Sex Music and there is little doubt that if Throbbing Gristle had come from David Keenan’s Airdrie not Hull they would have fitted right in, possibly supported by local heroes Memorial Device. At least that’s what it would have said on the posters.

Keenan’s Airdrie is one of post-punk freaks and geeks and is all the better for it. For those with only a passing knowledge of the area you may be surprised by the music, inspiration and creation which he relates. But what is described was happening all around the country, and often in towns rather than cities. Set in the early ’80s, this was the time of new towns and old industry, the two clashing in many ways, but both producing a generation with an indeterminate future. Music and art didn’t offer a way out, it offered a way to belong, to define yourself.

This is a novel about youth. Real youth, not the sort of arrested development that is all too common these days. Look at the cover shot of the novel at the top of the page. I would guess that those boys are anything between 14 and 17 years old. If John Hughes had set a film in Airdrie Academy, that’s what the cast would have looked like. So many of us spend such a long time trying to “grow up” we forget what it’s like to be young. This Is Memorial Device is well named as it takes you back to a time when everything was felt more keenly, without a weary, ironic, knowing filter dulling the effect. It felt like the first time because it was.

It’s become a cliché to talk about Postcard Records being the ‘Sound Of Young Scotland’ in the early ’80s, but there’s a truth to that. When Edwyn Collins formed the Nu-Sonics he was 16. Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame was the same age when Postcard released his debut single ‘Mattress Of Wire’. Josef K’s Paul Haig was a positively geriatric 19 when their first single was released. Meanwhile, in East Kilbride, The Jesus and Mary Chain were going through 16-year-old drummers like a post-punk Spinal Tap. This Is Memorial Device is spot on in terms of time and place, but it’s so much more than that. It’s rare for a writer to capture both in a manner which avoids nostalgia and feels relevant, but Keenan manages to do so. It’s a novel which is about what it means to be young, about the hows and whys – the when and where is less relevant.

I haven’t even mentioned the writing itself. If I read a better novel this year I will consider myself lucky. There are so many characters who will stay with me. Sexy, dirty and damaged creations who would not be out-of-place in ’80s New York, or even Bellshill, never mind Airdrie. Also, the detail and dedication on show tells of a writer obsessed and obsessive. Among the appendix (this is a novel, remember) there’s a ‘Memorial Device Discography,’ a ‘Necessarily  Incomplete Attempt to Map the Extent of the Post-Punk Scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge and environs 1978 – 1986’, as well as an astonishingly thorough index, called ‘A Navigational Aid’ of the like I’ve never seen, and I’ve been involved in a few. The level of attention to detail and the sheer-bloody mindedness to follow this through reminds me of Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, and in the same way it reflects the writer rather than any desire to inform the reader. If only more writers would put themselves first.

If Trainspotting deserved to sell more copies than the Bible, (as was the infamous claim on the original cover), then This Is Memorial Device deserves to sell more copies than Trainspotting. Some people may take that as a dig at Welsh, but if you do you are looking at things from the wrong point of view. It’s a reflection of how highly I rate this novel. I’ve read it twice and will do so again before too long. At the age of 46 it’s had a palpable effect on me. If I had read it when I was 15, (as happened with The Busconductor Hines and The Wasp Factory),  there’s every chance it would have changed my life. That’s your definition of a cult novel right there.

New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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The early months of a Glasgow year require a lot of moving around the city between festival events. January has Celtic Connections, February means Glasgow Film Festival, and in March the focus moves to Aye Write!. Few other cities in the world can boast that sort of festival action occurring before the clocks change, and a quality soundtrack is required to accompany the necessary toing and froing. Luckily for all concerned a very classy one emerged as some fine, and particularly melodic, new music was released.

We’re going to begin by going back to late February when Glasgow band Quick brought out their EP This I Know. It’s a beautiful collection of songs which stride that line between melancholy and inspiriting. The harmonies in particular are almost tangible as they wrap themselves around you, immediately improving your lot in life.

At times travelling to the more alt side of country, reminiscent of The Cowboy Junkies and Jessie Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter, at others dealing in the more traditional, Quick don’t just remind me of some of my favourite bands, on this evidence they are quickly going to join them. Listen for yourself, and for goodness sake if you like what you hear get yourself a copy. That goes for all the music featured in these reviews. Support your local musicians – we’ll all miss them when they’re gone. Here endeth the sermon, from now it’ll be just the music all the way – promise:

 

While we are keeping things classy, State Broadcasters release their new album A Different Past this month on Olive Grove Records. SWH! saw them play as part of Celtic Connections in January, and it was a reminder, if one was needed, that this is a group of musicians who cannot help but make memorable music together. The album is launched in Edinburgh and Glasgow later this week, and from it this is ‘Break My Fall’, with a fabulous video directed by Kris Boyle. From the opening piano refrain the song builds slowly introducing the rest of the instrumentation and harmonies in a manner which appears effortless and organic. If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye then you’re a hardier individual than this reviewer, and I wouldn’t swap places with you for all the world:

James Yorkston appears a man in a hurry. Last year not only saw his excellent debut novel Three Craws published by Freight Books, but also a solo tour as well as the release of the debut album from Yorkston Thorne Khan, his collaborative project with Jon Thorne and Suhail Yusuf Khan. The three are back with a new album, Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars, released on April 7th. They are also touring it, including a night at Glasgow’s Oran Mor on the 31st March. If you get the chance to see them you should grab it as however good they are on record (and they are very good indeed) seeing such fine musicians live is a rare and special treat. The first taste of the new album is ‘Bales’:

Pop song of the year so far comes from Sacred Paws in the form of ‘Strike A Match’, the title track from their new album. Wearing their pop-sensibilties with pride, Rachel Aggs and Eilidh Rodger make music to put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. It’s a magic which is difficult to define, but it appears that it’s in large part due to the wonderful marriage of Rodger’s chiming guitar, Aggs’ mesmeric and beautifully understated drums, and vocal harmonies which tell of musicians comfortable with each other and what they play. If you’re a fan of Tuff Love then you’ll love Sacred Paws, but then if you’re a fan of Tuff Love you’re probably already well aware of Sacred Paws. For everyone else, have a listen and see if everything said above is not true:

We have long been fans of Eugene Twist at Scots Whay Hae!, and you can still hear him being interviewed on the podcast from a few years ago. He’s always had a winning way with angular pop songs and arch lyrics which would put the Wainwright family to shame, but his new music is proving to be his best to date. Backed by a full band, with suits as sharp as his hooks, and an old-school new wave sound to match this feels like Eugene Twist’s moment as he brings the music and aesthetic of Stiff Records bang up to date. All of this would mean nothing it he didn’t have the tunes, but the latest single ‘Stuntman’, (from the album of the (nearly) same name), proves there is no need to worry:

Most of the music in this roundup has been based on close and correlative collaboration. This certainly applies to Audrey Tait and Michelle Low, who are The Miss’s. They have been making music together, between other ventures, for some time. Their new album Crash is a little bit country, a little bit rock and soul, and is made up of eleven songs, each one as memorable as the last. It is a proper album, one to be listened from beginning to end. How rare is that?

They have made the brave, and correct, decision to keep the production on Crash minimal which lets the mostly acoustic music speak for itself, and allows Low’s extraordinary voice to shine. The songs are intimate and empathetic, tales of lives lived and love lost told in a manner which will speak directly to those who take the time to listen. The truth is music like this never dates, it only gets better with time. My favourite track changes with every play, but you can listen to ‘It Won’t Happen’ here and now to give you a flavour of what to expect. Quite simply, Crash is a bona-fide classic. This is one to tell your friends, family and strangers about. They’ll thank you for it:

We’re going to finish with music which demands to be called ethereal, and I make no excuses about it. L-Space, (who take their name from Terry Pratchett’s name for libraries in the Discworld universe), are suitably otherworldly in their music and outlook. More an artistic collective than band, their core members are Lily Higham, Gordon Johnstone, Dickson Telfer and Maggie Tam, and together they push the boundaries of their music, how it is made, played, and presented.

It’s great to discover a band who bring such a sense of wonder to the table. You have no idea as to what they may do next, and you suspect that they don’t either. You can, and should, explore more fully over at their Bandcamp page, where you can buy their Sol 0 EP as well as receive some compelling free downloads. From Sol 0 this is ‘Blue Flowers’, where Goldfrapp meets Slowdive, but it only tells a small, if beautifully formed, part of the L-Space story. Prepare for liftoff:

And that’s all for the moment. There were other terrific new records released, such as Vukovi’s eagerly anticipated debut album, and Alasdair Roberts’ latest solo outing Pangs, but we have all got homes to go to so we have to draw the line somewhere. But have no worry, the next roundup should be with you in around six weeks time. Before that there will be a preview of Record Store Day (14/4/2107) and the best of what it has to offer.  In the meantime you can always contact us at scotswhayhae@gmail.com with new music you love and think other people need to hear.