Glasgow is one tough, dark place, a city whose centuries of industrial grime and whisky-fueled gutter brawling have imbued it with an overarching, cinematic sense of menace. Quite unlike any other urban jungle, the town has also produced Glasvegas, one of modern rock’s most arresting new forces. The group melds old school R&B big beat with post-punk extremes (and even displays a Droogy-like appreciation of Beethoven) to create a sound as atmospherically dissimilar and perilous as its native city. Theirs is a fresh, vivid style and it has elevated them, in just a few years time, to such heights of acclaim in the UK press that they’ve already surpassed rock royalty status to attain virtual pop deification.
Just one listen to their self-titled, Columbia-issued debut CD makes it easy to see why: Glasvegas’ untrammeled, assaultive sonics and offbeat, visceral subject matter (kidnap and murder, stabbings, child abandonment, self-loathing) combine to achieve extraordinary results. Anchored by guitar-brandishing cousins James and Rab Allan, Glasvegas is remarkably self-possessed outfit, one whose frequent employ of historic musical influences doesn’t rate as recidivist sloth. Instead, it reflects an aggressive interpretive ability perhaps best described as looking forward to the past, and while that’s certainly paradoxical, rock & roll has always thrived on indulging contradictory impulses.
Glasvegas has perfected this quasi-devolutionary process to an irresistible and thoroughly updated form. Jolting guitar and great glacial expanses of white noise mingle beside comparatively genteel traces of rockabilly primitivism, 1960’s pop and R&B soul—all of it woven together with a biting passion and unrelentingly expressive songwriting. The band exhibits a profound involvement with the music—a conviction that’s key to their success—and with hordes of American listeners quickly reaching the same conclusion as their British counterparts, it’s a quality which these talented auteurs seem unlikely to squander.