Into:Music – Writer’s Choice – Best Albums of March 2019
Fat Cops – Fat Cops
The origins of the Fat Cops band are as unlikely as it is remarkable. In the lead up to the 2014 Scottish independence vote, it seemed there were polar opposite and polemic views everywhere you turned, whether in newspapers, on TV, at work, down the pub or on social media. It was the latter, on Twitter that a friendship grew between journalist Euan McColm and musician Bobby Hodgens of The Bluebells, initially through debating independence, always peppered with a healthy dose of respect for each other’s differing views but also with a fair degree of humour.
Some jamming sessions followed and the shoots of a band started to form, ultimately including comedian Al Murray (drummer) and political commentator Chris Deerin (vocals) amongst others. So not the atypical way a band generally comes together.
But what about the record, is it any good? It absolutely is, in many ways, like a modern-day NME C60 mix tape. The great thing about it is the real different influences each band member brings to the table, resulting in a real smorgasbord of tunes and styles.
On vinyl, side one retains a feel-good factor throughout, from the glam rock opener Hot Tub with Neil Murray’s insistent keyboards through to the funky and mesmeric Hands Up! Get Down!, a tune that will absolutely make you want to dance and groove along – it’s the sound of the summer, lazy, hazy, warm, boisterous, recklessly buoyant, a musical heatwave. The fact both Ken McCluskey (The Bluebells) and Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) are on the track just adds to its evident coolness. Side one finishes with I Love Girls, 60s style organ to the fore, coupled with a few ‘ooh la la la’ refrains – it’s bang on.
Side 2 kicks off with Dehydrated, a fantastic sub 3-minute pop punk masterclass with a nod to The Ramones. Bass Chris leads the way on Good Looking, a song which showcases the talents of the full band together, drums, keyboards, guitars, bass and vocals in perfect harmony.
My own personal favourite on the record is Fat City, a real heavyweight track that packs a punch. A tale of long-gone triumph and all too current despair played against a grandiose cinematic, orchestral backdrop, booming drums, elegant guitars, backing vocals and singer Chris channeling the ghost of Scott Walker. Quite possibly the song of the year … already.
Fat Cops have recorded an assured album. It’s insanely infectious, it’ll make you smile, it’ll make you dance and it’ll make you want to listen to it again and again and again.
Edwyn Collins – Badbea
Six years on from his last solo release, Understated Edwyn Collins is back with a new album, Badbea. Recorded in his own studio in the north of Scotland, the album kicks off with the melodic It’s All About You, with a catchy chorus that will have you singing along before the track finishes.
In The Morning is full of northern soul overtones, and that guitar sound Collins is known for. Add in some horns and the song soars, majestic in its execution.
Listening to the album, the lyrics hint at looking back at the past but also with a sense of optimism for the future. Glasgow To London is a case in point with regard to the past, the drum beat driven track has Collins singing “ambition drove my life, now I’m old I must admit I couldn’t give a fuck … it’s in the past”. On the other hand, Beauty a stripped down, sparse acoustic ballad dripping in melancholy has the defiant message “don’t despair, fight the fight, don’t give up overnight, carry on, do your thing, look ahead, don’t give in”.
Elsewhere, initial single Outside is a sub two-minute post punk poser with scuzzy guitar and rhythmic drums while Tensions Rising captures a passionate aggression coursing through the vocal. The album ends, fittingly with the title track Badbea which centres on the story of the village of the same name, wiped out during the Highland clearances.
Badbea has 12 songs of immaculate craft, lyricism and a range of tunes that fits perfectly with Collins emotive vocals. It’s good to have him back.