Glowing In The Dark
Released February 12
Nine years since their Mercury nominated eponymous debut album, the Djangos have undoubtedly become one of the most inventively progressive bands to escape from the confines of the Scottish music scene.
Now onto their ‘eagerly awaited’ fourth album, a term overused but is always legitimate for this four-piece Edinburgh-formed avant-pop combo and there was further curiosity at just how they would manage with a recording process punctuated by lockdown.
The insanely catchy hook-filled acid-inflected early single and the Moog-fest album title track is up there with Hail Bop, Tic Tac Toe, In Your Beat and Life’s a Beach as almost perfect pop music and promised much. It remains a go-to track months after release.
The upbeat vibrant pop of Tic Tac Toe and In Your Beat signposted their third album Marble Skies.
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But in both that and this, the teases are not reflected on what would be delivered with the final album.
Both have veered between psychedelic space rock and out-and-out devil-may-care leftfield-but-singalong dance-rock and more so this time round.
Drummer-producer Dave Maclean from Dundee said that the band members had different influences which is “why our band is so weird and our songs are a bit of a mish mash”.
While he is more into dance and techno, others like Jimmy Dixon are into experimental folk music.
It has been admitted that the album was written specifically to fit precise junctures in their set, which is as singer/guitarist Vinny Neff says, already crafted “to draw a line of links from acoustic stuff through the electronic, rhythmic thing, through to something more raucous and rockabilly”.
This might explain what is to come with this schizophrenic new 14-track offering, their weakest so far, which hits the heights of infectious squelchy leftfield synth pop to transport you out of Covid misery on too few occasions before dropping into the mellow and sometimes horribly mundane.
Glowing’s opener, the soaring Spirals sees the Djangos’ in cruise control, with Vincent Neff’s trademark layered falsetto in full effect and the hypnotic art-rock stylings turned up to 11.
The thrilling second track Right The Wrongs is what the Djangos do so right. A joyfully addictive electropop vs surf rock addictive harmonic corker that ends too soon at just over 2m and like the title track needs to be played again and again and again.
Got Me Worried takes a mid-paced gear shift, but retains the twitchy close harmony twists that they have become best known for.
That is just about where the good news ends for those seeking a singalong art-pop joyride.
The Djangos brought in guest vocalist Rebecca Taylor of Sheffield indie-pop duo Slow Club for the Jamaican dancehall-influenced Surface To Air off Marble Skies but tended to be one of their more forgettable moments.
On this album it is Serge Gainsbourg’s daughter Charlotte that provided the vocals and the “extra glamour”, it says here, on Waking Up, but it is another so-so experiment, by their high standards.
Thankfully there is early single Free From Gravity round the corner, a hypnotic earworm (as always) single which is “really about the planet being in such a mess that we eventually have to leave”.
One of the album standouts Headrush is another example of how they are adept at sounding like the Beach Boys on psychedelics, while the floaty, twisting and chaotic instrumental The Ark concentrates on the latter rather then former.
The second half does not live up to the highs of the first, however, with just the standout title track to provide much needed relief.
Night of the Buffalo, sounds like an attempt to do something different that lacks the punch and pizzazz of their best work, the bizarrely folky World Will Turn could have been recorded round a Wild West campfire with an acoustic guitar and cowboy hat for company, while Kick The Devil Out appears to have done just that, musically.
The closing songs Hold Fast, and Asking For More, have tight hooks, but lack the quirks and punchy production of their best songs with Neff producing a more restrained vocal performance. It all ends with what sounds like a bizarre Peter Frampton talk box throwback.
The Djangos have always previously been far far more consistent than their nearest reference points, Hot Chip, who prove equally adept at hitting home with sublime electronic-based art-pop as they are the bloatedly forgettable.
The Djangos have proven, for once, they are quite capable of precisely the same.