Two of the most challenging types of writing are crime and comedy. For the first you have to avoid repeating well-worn clichés while still making it as recognisably belonging to the genre. For the second, well, it’s got to be funny – perhaps the most difficult trick to pull off on the page. A successful crime/comedy, therefore, is something which is to be celebrated.
Christopher Brookmyre and Douglas Skelton are two writers who get the balance right, combining the dark side of life with the blackest of comedy, but they are rare. A worthy addition to that niche section of your bookshelves arrives in the shape of Stuart David’s latest novel Peacock’s Alibi. Set in Glasgow, and with an unerring ear for what the word on the street should sound like, Peacock’s Alibi is like a lost Taggart script as written by John Byrne. Like Byrne, David writes dialogue that isn’t how people speak, but how they wish they spoke – funnier, wittier, and with a better line in the last word. Continue reading
Belle and Sebastian are one of those bands who are surrounded by myth and legend, often of their own creation. Their forming for a college music project, the Machiavellian hand of a former Associate, Stuart Murdoch’s rumored fondness for heavy metal, Christian fundamentalism, Chris Geddes being only 12 years old when he joined; that’s just a few of the truths, half truths and lies which have been put out there over the years.
Add to this the (fictional?) liner notes which accompanied the early releases, and you couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a band who understood the power of music mythology, and who were determined to be in control of theirs.
Stuart David knows what happened, cos he was there; one of the founder members of the band formerly known as Lisa Helps The Blind. His latest book, In The All-Night Café: A Memoir of Belle & Sebastian’s Formative Year is exactly that, and it deals with many of these myths, not with the intention of debunking them particularly, but simply by telling the truth of his part of the story.
He starts at the very beginning, setting out his own musical influences and dreams, and how they brought him from Alexandria to Glasgow to meet others who shared both. What unfolds is a story of persistence, luck, happenstance and talent which serves as a reassuringly recognisable tale to those who have once been in, or around, bands, and as a handbook for those who still dream about it. The former will shake their heads in disbelief as an amazing story of “where it all went right” unfolds, and the latter will be reassured as to what is possible. Talent, self-belief and luck; they run through the book as through a stick of rock.
In the latest Scots Whay Hae! podcast, Ian and Ali are joined by Looper’s Stuart and Karn David. It’s a timely chat as we discuss Stuart’s recent book In The All-Night Cafe about the early days of Belle and Sebastian, as well as Looper’s handsome new 5 CD box-set, These Things, which has just been released.
However, as usual, we stray from the main topics to talk about other interesting things such as the lost art of letter writing, literary and local musical influences, writing fiction, making films, and the problems that face the introverted artist.
Stuart reminisces about his first musical forays and the formation of the band who would become Belle and Sebastian. In doing so he sets out the chain of events which led from he and Stuart Murdoch’s first meeting, their finding a band of musicians who could share their vision, the importance of ‘Richards’, the making of their classic debut Tigermilk, the album’s initially cool reception, to his decision to make very different music away from the band.
Some of Scots Whay Hae!’s favourite bands brought out brand new material last month, many of whom have appeared on these pages before, but I make no apologies for this…although even typing that sentence feels like doing just that.
In the last few years January has become a surprisingly good month for new music, when previously it was hard to find. Whatever the reason for this, it’s good news for the soundtrack to cold winter nights. In this month’s roundup there is music to match the weather, some to get you through the arse end of winter, and even some with a reminder of what summer’s all about; something to match all moods and tastes.
First off, we have a new solo record from Alasdair Roberts, (with a fine portrait from fellow Alasdair, Gray, on the cover). In recent years, Roberts has probably been better known for his collaborations with the likes of The Furrow Collective, Robin Robertson, R.M. Hubbert, and many, many more from what must be a substantial phone book. Last year he featured on the Scots Whay Hae! podcast with another collaborator, the composer Ross Whyte, and you can still hear their chat here. Continue reading