Troon on a rainy Wednesday night. Not the sort of place you expect to find bona fide uber-hip, pointy-booted, squeezed head-to-toe into super-skinny black leather ‘n denim pop stars. This sleepy seaside town is more au fait with the golf swing rather than the swing of rock ‘n roll, yet 24 hours ago it was shaken from it’s slumber to the cries of “1! 2! 3! 4!” instead of plain old “fore!”
Glasvegas were in town and, having had the carrot of an AAA Guest Pass dangled before my eyes, I made the short 15 minute trip from North Ayrshire into the beautiful South, with it’s posh wheelie bins and faint reek of the good life. Pass in hand and plonked in the rattle-yer-jewellery good seats of the town’s Concert Hall, we had the perfect view to enable us to take in the new sights ‘n sounds of the ‘vegas. New sights #1? That would be James all in white, not black, no longer playing guitar, “cos you didnae see Sinatra janglin’ away oan wan while he crooned.” New sights #2? That would be recently-recruited Swedish drummer Jonna/Joanna (?), who just like Moe T and Bobby G before her, prefers to stand and bash away at the kit. Actually, that’s a complete disservice to her. She’s far more of a drummer than those other 2 hamfisted clobberers combined. She’s added a fresh new dimension to the band’s wall of sound AND she’s quite capable of adjusting her specs mid-beat as they slide off her beautiful, sweaty Swedish face. A multi-talented, multi-tasking vision in auburn hair. And I’m not the only one who thought that, eh birthday boy?
New sounds? That’ll be the 3 new tracks, being played live for only the 3rd or 4th time ahead of this Spring’s 2nd album. Underneath the gazillion effect pedals turned up to 10 there’s the faint echo of John McGeoch in some of the guitar riffs, post-punk and spidery-thin against the Killing Joke slab of bass. Nothing played tonight hints at the major-to-minor melodrama of the Ronettes-do-Dion dying in a car-crash first album material, but then James says later on that he didn’t think the songs played tonight are representative of it at all.
“What’s it like then, the new album?” Back at the hotel, and the seemingly stuck like Superglue Orbison Raybans have been swapped for an over-sized set of blue-tinted Lennon lenses. Yer man sits down next to us and I start firing questions at him. The first one’s a simple enough question which he’s no doubt been asked a fair few times already this week on a tour of Scottish gig backwaters that has taken them to places more used to ceilidhs and beetle drives. “Eh, ah dunno. It’s kinda hard tae describe. D’you know wance ye’ve shaved an’ ye look at yersel’ in the mirror? How dis it look?”
“Smooth,” I deadpan. “Smooth. So the new album’s like Luther Vandross?” He doesn’t get it, I think, and I’m not sure what to say next. Fear not, though, for James is a non-stop anecdotal motormouth. He’s off and running, waxing lyrical about Alan McGee and his Creation Records film, Bono and Noel Gallagher soundchecks, the merits of Phil Spector’s Christmas Album v’s James Brown’s Funky Christmas, playing festivals in Spain, Freddie Mercury’s shoes; you name it, he’ll have a soundbite prepared. On this week’s gigs, there’s lots of talk about ‘the vibe‘ and ‘the feelin” and ‘y’know?’ He’s a walkin’, talkin’ rock ‘n roll cliche and he’s ridiculously hilarious. He just doesn’t know it yet. Paranoid about having to live up to McGee’s proclamation of him as some sort of genius, yet perfectly willing to accept that he is indeed some sort of genius, James Allan could well be the next Bobby Gillespie. Now there’s a thought.
I also took the chance to chastise him for not playing tonight the best song in the Glasvegas catalogue, the wonderful Prettiest Girl On Saltcoats Beach. I’ve written about it before, here. You can fill yer (pointy) boots here:
The Prettiest Girl On Saltcoats Beach (full length version)
The Prettiest Girl On Saltcoats Beach (demo)