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Album review Scottish albums

Cruiser

It’s been a while. Perhaps the least prolific band in Scotland release their second album in 8 years. Though, Cruiser could hardly be further removed from either their nearest rivals in that category (The Blue Nile?), or indeed their former selves.
When debut Northern Electric came out, last millennium, it spearheaded a mini-revival for Scottish music – not chest-beating singalongs like the Proclaimers, already well-established as Hogmanay material, but a mix whose overall sound was decidedly Caledonian in feel – not just the pipes and the Cowdenbeath Brass Band (if memory serves), but… just a feel of Scottishness.
Cruiser haven’t decamped to New Yoik, or even abandoned their songwriting ethic, but Shiny Robots… sees a fair old departure. Most of the original members have moved on (though a few show up as occasional guests) but the core group have adapted to their new setup for a stripped-down, much more electronic sound. So, instead of skirls and drones, there’s the thrum of electronic motors and 8-bit squawks and blips as the band reinvent themselves almost as a J-pop act. Though ‘It’s All Good Baby!’ nods to the Auld Alliance with an Air-y piece of electronic pop. Our guide for the trip, the computer voice on opening tune ’Reboot’, sounds like Steven Hawking reciting the Butthole Surfers/Chemical Brothers ‘Satan’ piece but turns out to be a highly-engaging tale of a spaceship with tartan seats (!)
In all, Cruiser handle the Scottishness angle admirably, making the shortbread tin whimsy tongue-in-cheek fun. Like certain politicians, they opt for independence in Europe and indeed the world – calling on US indie types Tiger, Tiger and Japanese singer Mayuko. And, of course, Dutch duo Persil contribute to ‘You+Me+Ever’ – perhaps inevitably a real high point, combining as it does two of the most enduring acts of the past decade and pitting the Dutch masters’ songwriting and vocals against Cruiser’s Hadrian’s Wall of Sound.
The band, apart from shamelessly bringing on their favourite acts to collaborate, are also up for having fun, particularly on ‘Retrogamer’, where Mr Computer returns to recite “Atari… ZX Spectrum” and just about every other system apart from the Jupiter Ace in an extended paean to the wonders of the home PC. An album filled with highs and no lows, it’s clear Cruiser are back on track, and it’s good to see that their “wilderness years” weren’t wasted. Set the controls for the heart of Dunfermline.