It’s a matter of much personal shame but this is only BM’s second gig attendance at the Glad, despite it being the nearest live music venue to the BM residence (if you don’t count the Jayz Open Mic Night, the Karaoke at Findlay’s Bar or anything at The Shed, and none of them count, believe me, especially Findlay’s, oh dear me…).
So as I skipped up Kilmarnock Rd, dodging the unemptied bins and local vermin (although celebrity resident Michelle McManus has been shaming the council about this recently and there are rumours she will be getting the ‘Hoff to sort things out, or even possibly the Krankies, that combination could stir even GCC Cleansing Dept into action) it was a quiet Tuesday the week that most people are most skint in the whole year. But lo, the Glad was really quite busy, with Jim McAteer in full flow on the stage. This was part of Independent Venue Week (not Celtic Connections) and 3 acts for little more than a fiver may have drawn a few punters, also BM realises that ANI have played here a number of times and may be attracting what they music journalist guys call “a local following”.
Jim M serenades us with his mellifluous baritone, quirky guitar playing and songs about talking to yourself, know the feeling. It’s very entertaining, quite catchy at times, and he covers Elvis and a few more as well as his own material. A good opener, nothing too abrasive, a Noel Coward pastiche and a number about atoms and “copulate to populate”, I’m sure the RC Church will be signing him up for an album quicker than you can say Bishop Brennan.
Next up, as the venue gets gradually busier, are Body Heat, another band who have played here before. In a week when it was announced that T in the Park may be threatened by beavers (no, really, missus, come back…) this five-piece were threatened throughout by a serious hum, definitely the wrong sort of hum as well. It did detract a bit from what was a good sound mix, nice jangly riffs and some excellent drumming. Keyboards were used sparingly but well and there were a couple of nice harmonies. Songs included a “country” number, several from an EP and a Girls Aloud cover (‘The Loving Kind’, which worked maybe not so well). The strongest songs were reminiscent of ‘In Between Days’-era Cure and one bass intro even sounded exactly like ‘A Forest’, but never mind. The other thing was BM thinks, a bit too many lyrics about being nice to people, talking things over and being empathetic. They could do with a few darker edges and murderous scenarios, taking a few cues from the recently departed Lemmy perhaps.
A New International are a rum proposition – take a noughties Glasgow should-have-been act, rip them up, retool them and relaunch with a new name and a wider, more international, if you will, outlook, and start again. Since 2013 the artists formerly known as The Starlets have been gigging around Scotland and beyond, building up some press attention and releasing an ambitious debut album ‘Welcome to the Fabulon’. A five piece (vocal/guitar/accordion, bass, guitar, violin, drums) joined by trumpet at times, they have a varied sound, recalling (for BM anyway) anything between Brel, Scott Walker, some of Mark Almond’s solo stuff, Band of Holy Joy, My Life Story and even at times that BM idol Amanda Palmer, now that really is a compliment.
Vocalist and songwriter Biff Smith is an engaging presence onstage, dissolving the now pretty much full audience into fits of laughter in between songs with intended and unintended quips. There is no doubt though that this lot are still driven, somewhat battle-hardened, but still determined to do it their own way. This has moved in from beginning of the century indie-angst (although arguably The Starlets were never about that) to a semi-orchestrated series of mini-epics covering everything from European spies (‘Kim Philby’) to West Coast (of Argyll) dreamers (‘Under the Candle Window’). There are songs of lost love and regret as well, but also a lot of humour and warmth. Politics raises its head as well, with one number dedicated to “The Bullingdon Club”, Biff fairly spitting out the lyrics, more sneering than smiling. “Valentino” contains the line “we’d die for our art” which pretty much sums up what this band are about. In a world of You Tube-raised, stage school wannabees and posh sub-indie landfill (and worse), this is the real deal.
Just before the end Biff reads out an extract from his blog (which frustratingly BM can’t seem to find online or would post a link*) which covers the local music scene in the 1980s (‘Glasgow, Centre of the Universe’) and a particular anecdote he was told regarding a £40,000 catering bill for one band’s second album Stateside sessions. Of course there will be speculation about which band this was (answers on the pelt of Jim Kerr’s mullet) but as Biff says, the sums amounts to far more than most bands will earn in their entire careers. The rest of the rant may have been in danger of coming across as sour grapes (we missed the feast, etc) but it’s done with such mordant humour and observation that it’s more of a Glasgow rock myth/ shaggy dog type story.
They end with ‘Tenterhooks’, a majestic and rousing finale – may we see them back at the Glad, a bigger venue like ABC1, or even at Findlay’s karaoke some time soon.