Which is Scotland’s finest indie label? Us? Chemikal Underground? Lost Map? Why it’s us of cou… actually, whisper it, but the answer might be d) None of the above. It might, over the last couple of years, have been Soft Power Records.
Located in the highly unpromising commuter town of Livingston, I don’t know if they would actually win in a nose-to-nose with release schedules which boast, say, the RM Hubbert or Pictish Trail albums but they’d certainly be (in awful football parlance) right in the mix at the end of the season. They certainly have me casting envious eyes at a lot of the things they put out.
The Bend Over EP by Glasgow-based Blood of the Bull is four songs of bright and breezy retro-tinged garage guitar pop with a gorgeous, clear, high vocal. A very zeitgeisty mix of Britpoppy and more rough and ready garage sound from the late sixties, this actually embraces elements of psychedelic folk in the vocal delivery of tunes like Hold Your Head Up High and Go Fuck Yourself, with shades of late Fairport-era Sandy Denny in there, to my ears at least.
Like a few of the Soft Power releases, this may be garage pop, but it’s not all that lo-fi. Where other corners of this particular landscape may be distorted and aggressive, this has a a cleanliness to the sound to match the vocal. It’s still kinda retro and may be very DIY, but that doesn’t pull the music anywhere it doesn’t want to go. There’s some rougher stuff on the band’s Soundcloud page, and I have to confess I rather like that too.
In fact, in some ways this reminds me of the sort of woman I’ve seen a lot of in places where there are many tattoos to be seen. There seems to be a very specific look at the moment which embraces polka-dot dresses and glamorous hair, and yet includes being covered in ink. The combination of such prettiness with dense tattoos, which still retain something of a hard-edged, rebellious feel to them, always struck me as a little incongruous. In fashion terms it’s a style I have to confess that I really like, and there are elements of that in this EP. It can be very pretty, with a deliberate girlish innocence at times, and then at others there are some noticeably rougher edges. It’s a fascinating combination and a really good record.