It's a scenario that should be familiar to anyone who has followed pop music for the past two decades: A band is hyped by the British music press, only to cross the Atlantic and disappoint. Call it the Empire's new clothes.
It’s a scenario that should be familiar to anyone who has followed pop music for the past two decades: A band is hyped by the British music press, only to cross the Atlantic and disappoint. Call it the Empire’s new clothes.
The most recent band to repeat this cycle, Glasgow, Scotland, quartet Glasvegas, appeared to offer something different on their debut album (freshly released by Columbia). Yes, their combination of echoed, distorted guitars and girl group melodies are lifted wholesale from fellow Glaswegians the Jesus and Mary Chain, but the music feels massive and earnest, with singer and main songwriter James Allan’s ambitions and melodies scaled to match the sound.
But when they took the Troubadour stage for their sold-out Los Angeles debut, the thick fuzz of their guitars climaxing with drummer Caroline McKay banging out the signature four-beat intro to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” it becomes apparent that Glasvegas’ resemblance to Jesus and Mary Chain is less an homage or undigested influence than evidence of a lack of imagination.
Their live sound was downsized and anemic. They lacked volume, which kept the guitar of Rab Allan (James’ cousin) from filling its allotted space; Paul Donoghue’s slack, thudding bass lines sank like a stone, and McKay’s drums sounded distant and tinny. There’s nothing psychedelic or enveloping about the guitar sound; unlike the druggy haze that drapes the Jesus and Mary Chain, Glasvegas is surrounded by a fogbank that blocks the sun and refuses to burn off.
Monochromatic, chilly and raw, it’s an atmosphere that fits the songs’ earnestly unvarnished subject matter, but James Allan’s dispassionate guttural vocals — he delivered the songs in a nearly unintelligible burr — flattened the melodic impact. It became obvious how little ground the songs cover when the 50-minute set opened with a father mourning his dead son on “Flowers & Football Tops” and closed with “Daddy’s Gone,” the lament of a son abandoned by his now-divorced father. Only the upbeat misdirection of “Geraldine” (a rousing declaration of support that ends up being sung by a social worker) provided any relief.
By the time they stagger to the set’s final song, a cover of “Be My Baby,” Glasvegas showed themselves to be a tattered version of the same old thing.
Glasvegas plays Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg on March 28 followed by a date at Manhattan’s Webster Hall on March 30.
Also appearing: Carl Barat, Angela McCluskey.