First, the name. Glasvegas, it will not surprise you to learn, are from Glasgow; but their name is more than a throwaway pun – to me, it sums up the essence of their songs: a combination of grit and escapism. Their lyrics touch on harsh social realities, but the music is far from dour: this is big, epic indie-rock.
My favourite three songs on the album (all released as singles) illustrate this contrast well. There’s ‘Geraldine’, which paints a heroic portrait of a social worker; and ‘Daddy’s Gone’, an optimistic tale of someone getting over their father’s absenteeism and making a new start. Perhaps best of all, though, is the stunning ‘Flowers and Football Tops’, a seven-minute track sung from the viewpoint of a parent whose son has been killed. It’s a sweeping anthem that closes with an adaptation of ‘You Are My Sunshine’, which brings out a tender side to James Allan’s vocals.
There are no songs on Glasvegas that don’t work; if there’s a problem, it’s the same as with the Friendly Fires record – a little too much similarity in the songs over the course of a whole album. But, as I said, I’ve no gripes with the individual tracks; and there are a couple which are a real departure from the rest – ‘Stabbed’, a spoken-word piece which is as stark as its title; and the near-ambient ‘Ice Cream Van’, which ends the album on a call for unity.
The sound of Glasvegas is quite traditional, yes; but the album has a big heart and a social conscience. It’s a joy to listen to.
Video: ‘Daddy’s Gone’ (live)
Read my other Mercury Prize 2009 posts here.