Hard-to-find

Hope Springs Eternal

Glasgow 3-piece Dead Hope is something of an enigma. A proper underground band, you can Google them all you want but you’ll find little in the way of a band promo shot, official video, logo or any of the regular stuff that, for almost all other bands, is as much a part of the machine as the music itself. Google them though and you will find a link to their Bandcamp page where you can listen to/download/buy their debut album Songs From the Second Floor. It’s a terrific album packed full of short, sharp and angry blasts, Husker Du by way of Sonic Youth over 10 songs in just over half an hour. If you’re a regular here you may remember I’ve written about it before. Googling Dead Hope will also throw up a handful of links to reviews of their live shows. The piece that follows will hopefully be another for the Google analytics bots to link to.

Scott McLuskey of Dead Hope (c) Kerrin Carr

Dead Hope played the tiny Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine on Friday night. It’s a seated venue, with seats on three sides of a floor space where the band plays. There’s not a stage in sight. The only people standing are the musicians. As a venue it’s perfect for acoustic nights and travelling theatre groups. It’s not a room normally conducive to hosting noisy post-punk acts, yet Dead Hope made it their own.

As befits a band with little in the way of self-promotion, they requested no lights other than the down lighters behind the drums. Previous gigs in the venue (I’m part of the team that puts them on) have seen any number of acts demand all manner of spotlights here, uplighters there, blue washes in the third number etc etc. Not Dead Hope. “No lights, please.” As the last notes of the support act had faded to a feedbacking hiss, Dead Hope vocalist Scott McLuskey quietly draped the amps, the drumkit, the mic stand, effect pedals and the floor with ropes of twinkling fairy lights. “The Devil is in the detail,” as they sing on album opener Pigs.

Picture of stage set ‘borrowed’ from Scott McKluskey’s Twitter feed

It was ethereal. Womb-like, even. Certainly, when the band took to the ‘stage’, you felt as if you were inside their wee world, audience and band as one. It was a perfect set-up. When they started playing, it was even better.

Dead Hope at the HAC, Irvine 6.4.18 (c) Paul Camlin

Dead Hope sound like a Panzer attack coming over the hill. Brutal, relentless and unforgiving, they make an almighty noise for a trio. The signs are there on the album of course, but played live, the songs leap off the fretboards like sparks from a welder’s blowtorch. Driven by Keith Martin’s machine-like drumming (think Stephen Morris at the wheel of Joy Division) and Andy Crone’s bulldog chewing a wasp bass, it’s up to Scott McLuskey to provide the vocals, the melody and the colour. It’s his guitar that sets Dead Hope apart from all others. Dead Hope love reverb. They love distortion. They love whacked-out echoes and dubby codas. McLuskey’s guitar (a vintage ’62 Fender Jag, I believe) provides these glorious textures.

Scott McLuskey of Dead Hope (c) Paul Camlin

Like all the best bands, and by this I mean the truly great bands who really matter (yer Clash and yer Joy Division and yer ‘Du and the likes), Dead Hope’s tracks blend seamlessly into one another. The album material¬† – Pigs, Swordz, Thieves & Vultures and Landslide being the pick of the bunch – plus the one or two new tracks they played stretches the set to around 45 minutes, but it’s a breathless rush, over and out in what seems like 5 minutes. As you watch McLuskey hunched and leaning as he screams into the mic, cardigan and stripey t-shirt hanging loosely behind his battered Jag, you can picture Kurt Cobain. Andy Crone, standing stock still ‘stage’ left, staring into the middle distance with his legs shoulder width apart (“I couldn’t see what I was doing!” he explains later) and the metronomic Martin behind his kit provide the solid balance.

Scott McLuskey of Dead Hope (c) Paul Camlin

As I type, one prominent indie label has expressed an interest in re-releasing Songs From The Second Floor and giving it the platform it deserves. In a world of poseurs and pretenders, it’s the least anyone could do. There’s no pretence with Dead Hope. They’ll place substance over style every time. Dead Hope don’t play live that often, so it’s all the more important that you go and see them when they do. They play every show with a ferocity and honesty that suggests it might be the last show they ever play. Don’t miss out.

Dead HopeLandslide

Dead Hope plus road crew photographed superbly by this author. Borrowed from Scott McLuskey’s Twitter feed.

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The Admin. Assistant West Coast Promo Man

Back in the mid 80s, the coastal town of Irvine, half an hour or so by train from Glasgow, was an incredibly fertile breeding ground of artistic creativity. No one knew this at the time – indeed if you’d suggested as much, there’s a good chance your observations might have been met with a swift kick to the nether regions. Irvine – Irvine no more, as The Proclaimers proclaimed – was, like many provincial towns not supposed to be churning out pop stars, literal thinkers and all-round media fodder. Nicola Sturgeon might’ve grown up in the town at the same time, but she was still finding her feet and perfecting her spins on the Magnum’s ice rink rather than in the debating chambers of Holyrood.

The Trash Can Sinatras were our unlikely star turn; a local band who came together through shared interests on a youth opportunities scheme and ended up with a record contract and pop success permanently within touching distance. All other local bands fell into two camps; those who were pleased for their fellow local band’s success, or those who bitchily moaned that they’d become too big for their boots. Which is nonsense of course. Any of those bands would’ve bitten your hand off for a similar chance. Just ask them.


Runners-up to the Trash Cans, and head of the pack of ‘nearly weres’ was The Big Gun. Pre-dating the Trash Cans by a couple of crucial years, they maintained identical Strummer via Edwyn Collins quiffs and played the sort of shambling, Buzzcockian indie pop that was very much of its time. There are still folk in anoraks with Sarah Records badges on the lapels that’ll cry themselves silly over Heard About Love, the band’s DIY 7″ release. Thrillingly, the mighty John Peel played it more than once on his show and briefly, but brightly, The Big Gun’s star shone before fizzing out like the outro on the b-side.


Although The Big Gun never made it, whatever ‘it’ is, a couple of the constituent members/hangers-on went on to make their own mark. Andy O’ Hagan became Andrew O’Hagan, respected author of such excellent reads as The Missing, contributor to all the weighty quality dailies and some-time Editor-In-Chief at the London Review Of Books.

John Niven (not actually of the band but very much a part of their circle) went on to play in 2nd division also-rans The Wishing Stones, wrecking (or “breaking in” as he called it) my pal’s borrowed Tele in the process, before moving to London Records as an A&R man (that Mike Flowers Pop’s version of Wonderwall was all his fault) and finally putting his experiences into print in the far-flung but entertaining Kill Your Friends. Niven continues to write, Irvine Welsh by way of Castlepark rather than Leith, and, along with the weighty library of books that constitutes his polar opposite O’Hagan, is well worth investing some time in.

Recently, and out of the blue, 2 ex Big Gunners have recorded and released an album. Dead Hope is the name of the band. Songs From The Second Floor is the name of the album. It features former Big Gun vocalist Keith Martin on drums alongside his longtime partner in musical crime Andy Crone who maintains his position on bass guitar. Vocals and guitar duties fall to Scott McLuskey, someone, given the insular nature of the local band old boys’ network, I suspect I’d recognise if I saw. Although Dead Hope is essentially a Glasgow band, their roots are in Irvine. There’s a thanks on the credits to Basil Pieroni, yet another key constituent of that fertile provincial scene who these days still does his twang thang with the rarely-spotted Butcher Boy.

Dead Hope. A none-more-punk name you’ll be unlikely to encounter this year. It’s No Future for folk who remember the past; a manifesto-driven ideology, an unacceptance of the state of the nation. There are no promo band shots in the traditional sense. The cover art in tandem with the band’s name says it all. To drive the point home, sledgehammer sure, the album title references the obscure Scandinavian film of the same name where the pointlessness and, aye, hopelessness of modern-day life is a constant theme. Coldplay this ain’t.

this is Dead Hope’s debut album, the leaflet inside says. we offer no comparable band names to divert or convince you what may or may not be true.

Dead Hope believe any society that promotes boris johnson to a position beyond that of admin. assistant is truly fucked.

Setting their stall out in such terms, I came to the album with half an idea of how it might sound; angry, for one. And noisy. Gnarly bass. Abrasive guitars. Maybe a bit shouty. Maybe even a bit too shouty for my middle-aged and slightly gluey ears. But no…

It’s shouty yet sloganeering. It’s noisy yet melodic. It’s the breakneck speed of Husker Du by way of a street swaggering Cribs. Metallic sheets of Brillo Pad guitar are followed by choruses that your postman might choose to whistle as he completes his round. Despite that Cribs reference, bits of it sound like Man Made, the trio fronted by young Nile Marr who wilfully eschews anything that might pigeonhole him as his father’s son. There’s also buckets of Sonic Youth squall, bIG fLAME and Pop Group discordance and a mini dubby King Tubby outro towards the end.

All in all, it’s a pretty breathless and thrilling listen. I’d imagine played live it’d be even more vital and visceral. Sat alongside the movers, shakers and young pretenders of our time, it fairly holds its own. In fact, it teaches those young bucks a valuable lesson; bile over style and rage before age. In an era of right wing world politics and whatever horrors that might ultimately bring, we need more bands with the conviction of Dead Hope.