It is unfortunate that the performance I saw given by Sons and Daughters on last week’s Culture Show of their new single ‘Darling’, was so dire. Unfortunate because, having never seen S+D live, I would have thought them to be naturals on the open stage. Their shtick is, after all; Scottish, spiky, raw, guitar and drums combo, fronted by the vocals of Adele Bethel and Scott Paterson. No flourishes, a perfect live proposal.
In spite of the way Adele’s voice strained ever to match the range and quality displayed on their new album, ‘This Gift’, I’m still convinced that live they must be worth the price of a ticket. This is the band’s third album and builds on foundations laid by 2004’s ‘Love the Cup’. To my taste the paired down, Presbyterian joylessness of that first album made listening to it feel like a bit of a duty; I knew I should probably like it but could rarely be bothered with the effort.
With ‘This Gift’ however, the band combine the Gothic gloom of their lyrical landscape with an energetic new pop sensibility. West Coast Scots have always had an instinctual leaning towards American folk, Country and Soul and the land over the horizon can certainly be felt in the roots of this band’s musical origins. But with the aid of producer Bernard Butler, there is now a lightness of touch and eclecticism to the band’s range which helps show off the smooth Glasgow burr of Bethel’s voice.
The songs still talk of desperation, anger and sexual hunger but with a springing dynamism that doesn’t leave you feeling you’ve been beaten on the head with a frying pan for forty minutes. If you’re struggling to get up on these dull January mornings, stick this on and you’ll be given a jolt, a double shot of musical espresso. ‘House in My Head’ pounds out an urgent alarm call but manages to smooth the raw sound with guitar riffs that would delight Johnny Marr. ‘Goodbye service’, ‘Chains’ and the fabulous ‘Iodine’ make musical reality out of their lyrics. Lines that speak of ‘Trains in the distance’ and ‘High tension lines’ are driven with the momentum of a rampaging railroad engine. And when 60’s stomp ‘Darling’ urges you on with ‘twistin in, twistin out the night’, I dare your foot not to be tapping.