It wouldn’t take a genius to deduce that Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka and H P Lovecraft were deeply troubled men. And that Manchester groups The Fall and Joy Division did not hail from California. Nor did Morrissey.
And yet, and yet. Listening to Orange Juice and Aztec Camera, they seem to be making a conscious effort to overcome what one can only imagine was a fairly grim urban setting of Glasgow and surrounds. Roddy Frame (actually from East Kilbride) of Aztec Camera loved The Fall and Joy Division. His clothes came from the Co-Op like Mark E Smith. He listened to Joy Division a lot. But when he sang the sound was more Venice Beach than Salford Docks.
On ‘Rip It Up’ by Orange Juice, Edwyn Collins sang that his ‘favourite song was Boredom’ by Manchester’s Buzzcocks. But the song is in fact inspired by Chic and disco synths. Stuart Murdoch’s Belle and Sebastian got Trevor Horn from the Buggles to produce them. Camera Obscura wrote an album in tribute to Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and draw their sound in part from the great girl groups of the early 60s.
This is still great music, but it’s not perhaps what you’d expect from an industrial city. It’s not dour, it’s upbeat for the most part. The Jesus and Mary Chain sweetened their early obsession with feedback by lacing it with a laid back west coast sensibility.
Perhaps this is just a theory in search of a home. Mogwai sounds quintessentially Glaswegian, to my ears anyway. Batcat from The Hawk Is Howling is as unnerving as it gets: a horror movie set to music. Don’t watch the video as I once did, late at night on your own. There is no one monolithic Glaswegian sound, as it turns out - there’s no Madchester here.
What cannot be denied is that the city has produced an unbroken line of wonderful alternative groups, perhaps only rivalled by Manchester and Sheffield. So, please do enjoy a short history of alternative Glasgow tunes.
Falling and Laughing, Orange Juice
Oblivious, Aztec Camera
In Trance As Mission, Simple Minds
Just Like Honey, Jesus and Mary Chain
Downtown Lights, The Blue Nile
The Boy with the Arab Strap, Belle and Sebastian
Pull the Wires from the Wall, The Delgados
Eighties Fan, Camera Obscura
Eleanor, Put Your Boots Back On, Franz Ferdinand
Friend of the Night, Mogwai
Pest, De Rosa
Check My Heart, The Pastels