Song, by Toad

Archive for the Scottish Bands category


Aberdeen Is Not As Shit As It Seems To Think It Is

union street from other end

I remember the first time I moved to Scotland and realising just how strong a taboo it was to actually say you were good at anything. That’s not something the English are especially comfortable with either of course, but it does seem that the further North you go the more likely some earth-shattering achievement is to be greeted with a noncommittal shrug and an inquiry as to whether or not you’d like another pint.

It was a bit off-putting at the start, learning to translate the full knowledge that, say, my German language skills were near fluent (which they were at the time) into ‘oh yes, I can speak a wee bit of German but it’s been a while’.

Once you get used to it, though, it’s really quite nice. And occasionally quite funny. If DaVinci were Aberdonian I am pretty sure the most you’d hear of it would be ‘yeh, ah fuck aboot wi paints sometimes when I can be ersed. Pint?’

Aberdeen is known as a bit of a shit-hole actually, but I am pretty sure that the main reason for that is not the town itself, but the fact that every time I go there all my friends apologise quite profusely for the fact that I felt the need to come up to Aberdeen at all.

It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s grey, because of the oil industry there is some of the greatest wealth inequality in the UK, the music scene is shit because no-one fucking bothers… you could paint it in a pretty crappy light I suppose.

The thing is, I first visited the place back in 1996 or so (I drove a friend up to start their new job and more or less the first thing we saw as we drove out to the complex was a field of sheep – hooray clichés!) Not all that frequently but nevertheless regularly I’ve been going up there for years now and on my latest trip, when once again my pals were apologising for me even having to be there at all, I had to stop them because it occurred to me that actually, I have never had a bad night in Aberdeen.

I mean, I keep going back, don’t I.

Contrary to that other great entirely bullshit Scottish cliché, they are some of the most generous people I know. Alright, there’s dicks everywhere, but Scottish people are generous as fuck and the further away you get from the fucking sphincter-clenchingly prissy middle classes of the Edinburgh New Town, the more people will go miles out of their way to help you out.

And this may seem like a bit of a tangent, but in fact, Rust2Rome has also been, erm, ‘enlightening’ when it comes to this particular part of the world. There are heroic exceptions of course, but the most legendary Rust2Romers seem to almost always be bloody Fifers or people from the North East of Scotland.

I suppose it makes sense. If you’re going to embark on a massive fuckwit escapade through Europe in a shitey car which may or may not start any given time you turn the key you are going to need a certain amount of stoic unflappability, and if that was an Olympic sport, every gold medal winner in history would come from the towns in and around Aberdeen.

They’re fucking mental of course. Just absolute blazing nut-jobs, the lot of them, but in the absolute best possible way. On the latest Rust2Rome one of the cars went on fire twice, and another didn’t start under its own steam for the entire trip and burned fifteen litres of oil. The drivers: Aberdonian (give or take a few miles). The response, a laugh, a shrug, a quick cigarette and get the fuck on with it.

This is a music blog of course, so I suppose I get to something like the point, inasmuch as I have one: what is the problem with the music scene up there? Well actually not all that much at the moment, which is sort of the point of this incredibly long and largely off-topic ramble. The classic criticism of the Aberdeen music scene was described thusly by a friend of mine a few years ago and I’ve run it past a few Aberdonians since, and they seem to generally agree.

Aberdeen is a very long way away from the rest of the country, especially the UK, but even most of the population of Scotland, so consequently no-one tours there. It’s expensive to get to and audiences are small. Because touring bands don’t really come through all that much, the local music audience tend to support their own, and look locally for the best music. The net result of this, however, is that the whole scene becomes very inward-facing so when touring bands do actually bother to visit Aberdeen, no-one goes, and of course that just makes them less likely to return, and the whole cycle become self-reinforcing.

But actually, if you look at what’s coming out of Aberdeen at the moment there is a really good collection of bands, so no matter how shit they keep telling you the place is, something is going very much right up there.

Take angry guitar music, for example. It won’t fill Wembley Stadium, but if you put Depeche Choad, Wendell Borton and Min Diesel together, that would be an excellent bill. Or alternatively, on the slightly more acoustic side, maybe Kitchen Cynics and Best Girl Athlete. Or the woozy electronic dreamscapes of Tryptamines. And that’s before you get into the ‘Aberdonian diaspora’ of the likes of Gerry Loves Records in Edinburgh, and bands like Lush Purr, The Yawns, DTHPDL and presumably countless more.

And to put the weirdness in perspective, Alan from the Kitchen Cynics just disappeared from our house when he came to play down here, wandered off into the haar over Leith Links, walked the town overnight and apparently got the first train back home.

Chemical Callum from Tryptamines is a concert pianist with an arm held together by half a dozen metal plates, who turned up in Edinburgh looking like the Levellers had turned to heroin, and then sat down and played the most beautiful piano to ever come from someone wearing a combat jacket.

Best Girl Athlete is a dad touring the world with his sixteen-year-old daughter during the school holidays.

I think Depeche Choad introduced themselves to me by telling me to fuck off, actually, although it’s all a little hazy. They really are all crazy, but somehow absolutely brilliant at the same time.

Glasgow is a magnet and tends to draw all the bands in Scotland into itself, but if you look at who is actually making the music, music in Scotland is not really all that dominated by the Central Belt at all.

I’d put on an all-dayer of this stuff of course, but the expense of driving six bands on a six-hour round trip would basically kill all hopes of not losing money, and therein lies the other problem: that distance makes it a serious challenge for bands in Aberdeen to get out and about and tour as much as they need to in order to get ‘out there’ to a wider audience.

There’s great stuff happening up there at the moment though, and I fucking love the place and the people. It’s a bit like London in the sense that you just have to develop a total blind-spot for the wankers, but if you do, then you too can develop that perfect tone of voice that lets you say ‘nah, it’s shite’, but secretly mean that a weird part of you loves the place for reasons that you can’t really be bothered to explain.


Garden of Elks at CMJ


By sheer good fortune, on the exact same day we (temporarily) became a Brooklyn Record label, one of our Song, by Toad Records bands turned up in New York to play some shows at CMJ.

Garden of Elks’ fantastic album of thrash pop A Distorted Sigh came out on vinyl and tape in April, and they’ve got five shows over here this week, as well as a few other bits and pieces, so having moved over here yesterday knowing pretty much no-one it seems I am now going to spend much of my time dotting around Brooklyn with Niall going to see bands. Not exactly a radical change of lifestyle, I have to confess.

And we’re in Red Hook too, which is surprisingly similar to Leith in many ways. I like it here.

Garden of Elks CMJ 2015 shows:
October 13th//The Living Room//British Consulate ‘Music Is Great’ showcase
October 16th//Fat Baby//11.45pm
October 17th//CakeShop//CakeShop Presents//1.30pm
October 17th//The Shop//8pm
October 18th//Fulton Stall Market//Paper Garden & Little Water CMJ Brunch//3pm


New Andrew R. Burns Stuff

arb Andrew R. Burns has been a wee bit quiet for the last year or so, but a new EP has just made its way onto his Bandcamp page, under his slightly amended new guise of Andrew R. Burns and the Tropicanas.

It’s something of a piece with his existing stuff, and as he builds his back catalogue it’s starting to flesh out into a really good collection of material. It’s very much from the introverted lounge lizard school of modern guitar pop which I know some people have taken a bit of a scunner to, but fortunately I am not one of those people.

This new four song EP – rather catchily titled One Man’s Garbage is Another Man Person’s Good Ungarbage – has a couple of cracking straight up pop tunes, and a rather cute instrumental, Emargo, which doesn’t go anywhere much but has a really nice, playful wee melody line – verging on chiptunes.

There’s a really nice dreaminess to these, mixed in with a little bit of swagger. It’s a fairly popular mix these days, but when the balance is right and the tunes are there I really like this kind of stuff.



Yves Yacolt

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 09.25.26 There are band names, and then there are band names. Yves Yacolt, when they first got in touch with me, went by the name of Wank Hilliams. Presumably Auntie Flo suggested it over Sunday lunch one weekend.

Apparently radio play was a little tough to come by for Wank Hilliams for some unfathomable reason, so a super-slick firm of image consultants (or, perhaps, Auntie Flo again) have rebranded the band as the far more family friendly Yves Yacolt which is, by almost every single measure yet invented, a significantly better name.

The songs, however, haven’t changed much, which is excellent news because I thought they sounded really good.

It’s grumbly guitar music, and can be droney, but in general is more of a low-level growl than an all-out bellow. There’s a lot of acoustic guitar over the grumble as well, which works nicely, and makes it all feel nice and approachable, despite the occasionally disinterested approach to singing.

My description of the guitar and vocals sounds a bit like every other band I’ve covered here for the last five years I guess, and that’s not entirely wrong, this stuff won’t shock you when you hear it. There are interesting things going on though, and the percussion can be improvised really nicely, such as She Only Sleeps When She Prays, which is a really nice touch and takes the music somewhere more individual and interesting. There are six songs to have a listen to on their Soundcloud player and enough little detours and surprises like this to imply that the band might well have some rather interesting things in their locker.

The songs are short and sharp, and surprisingly catchy despite the roughness, and I am really glad the band are back in business after going quiet for a while. Right, where’s that Pale Imitation bill?


Inspector Tapehead Are Back

Things move fast in the music industry, and memories are short. We released the debut album by Inspector Tapehead back in something like 2010 I think, but they promptly disbanded to the furthest corners of Scotland and, whilst not calling time on the band per se, at the very least meant that we heard little at all from them for the next several years.

I almost forgot about their album myself, shamefully enough, until last year when we moved house and I had to put the office back together again in the new place. I noticed the album when I was unpacking and started listening to it regularly again. And it’s fucking brilliant – eccentric, cheerful, catchy, humorous and just plain fucking weird. It was a nice moment actually. It may not figure on many people’s radars anymore, but it is still a bloody great album – have a listen to Pherenzik Tear if you need convincing.

Anyhow, the band are back. I wasn’t really expecting to hear from them, I have to confess, and we had too many commitments already piled up to be able to release their new record, but they have found a home right around the corner from us at Glint Recordings where you can pre-order the new album. And if you want to see them live for the first time since God was a wee boy then I suggest you come along to Henry’s Cellar Bar on the 2nd of July, where they’ll be joined by friend and collaborator Panda Su.


Halfrican Have Been Busy

halfrican Halfrican have played a couple of gigs for us through in Edinburgh, tonight they headline the first Paradise Palms Song by Toad Dingus Rock Slop Fest, and they’ve been busy boys so I thought I might share some of their new stuff with you.

For those who don’t know the band, they play fuzzy, surfy garage rock , but their new single is a little heavier than their earlier stuff and I like that.

As well as the Life is Hard/He’s Around AA-side 7″ they’re working with the awful bastards our pals at long-time Toad nemesis Gerry Loves Records on a four-way split 7″ release, which looks really good. Sharptooth (who you might also remember from a Toad gig) are on that split 7″, as well the Pinact, who rather inexplicably have never ended up on one of our bills at all.

Anyhow, get down to the Paradise Palms tonight (that really is a most un-Edinburgh start to a sentence) to see this lot, the excellent Dune Witch Trails and Aberdonian newcomers Wendell Borton. It’ll be loud and quite possibly not the most polished gig you’ve ever been to, but it’s free and why bother voting tomorrow without a massive hangover.

You’ll need another one soon anyway if that awful cunt Hamface gets back in. Someone please reassure me that we’re not that collectively fucking stupid. Please.


Shards – Just Something to Get Started

I don’t really know anything at all about this band, apart from the fact that Stephen from Edinburgh band Collar Up (and an arch-nemesis of mine from the Edinburgh amateur football leagues) is involved in one way or another. I am not really sure how he is involved, but he sent me the song, so that’s about it.

It’s theatrical in a way, but slow and dreamy, almost as if it’s stiffly staring off into the middle distance. The vocal and the really, really restrained instrumentation work fantastically together. It reminds me really strongly of something I can’t quite call to mind, but as one-song introductions to new bands go this sounds extremely promising. I eagerly await more.

Keep an eye on their Soundcloud page here, for when more stuff materialises.



CHUMP / shut eye from chump on Vimeo.

HEY EVERYONE, GUESS WHAT I’M ABOUT TO WRITE ABOUT? Yep, that’s right, more lo-fi, DIY guitar music from Glasgow.  Seriously, I know it’s becoming quite funny by now, but there is so much good music coming out of that city at the moment that I have been in a state of pretty much permanent excitement for the last year or so.

Anyhow, apparently Chump did a whole pile of recording recently which has not seen the light of day yet. I’ve asked a friend, and apparently whilst there used to be a live band, more often than not Tara plays with just a guitar and a loop pedal and builds these woozy, downbeat, dreamy tunes solo.

The tune below is the only one on Bandcamp, and it’s just a demo. It’s not hooky, exactly, but the rise and fall of the vocal is absolutely gorgeous.

This basically makes me think two things. Firstly, that I can’t wait for the recently recorded songs to surface. And secondly, I wonder when the next BAD FUN night I can reasonably try and persuade Chump to play would be.


Garden of Elks – A Distorted Sigh Out Now


Garden of Elks themselves call this ‘thrash-pop’ and I really can’t think of anything better, to be honest. In the words of Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ it’s “ten ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-them’ tunes that sound like the missing link between The Ramones and Sonic Youth”.

Or inbetween Arcade Fire and Iggy Pop if you look at the playlist on KEXP the other day.

Whatever you call it, this is pop music which is intense, exuberant and aggressive and, as all good pop music should be, absolutely hummable as fuck. It’s out on vinyl and cassette, and can be found in Monorail and LoveMusic in Glasgow and in VoxBox and Coda here in Edinburgh. If you want to see more pictures of how pretty it is, like the one above, then go here.

The band will be headlining the Bongo Club Stage at our label showcase at the Hidden Door Festival this year (although that’s a secret for now, so sssh), as well playing Power Lunches in London on the 29th April, and we’re working on a few other festivals for them as well. In the meantime though, if you can’t enjoy this stuff as much as the kids in the video below, you must just hate fun.

Garden of Elks – SWAP from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.


Jealous Girlfriend

jealousgirlfriend Jealous Girlfriend is yet another of the many-splintered side projects belonging to someone from that wee group of Glasgow bands which include Spinning Coin, Froth (soon to be renamed Strop), Herbert Powell (recently deceased), Youngstrr Joey, Dune Witch Trails and Psychic Soviets. In this case, we’re talking Eilidh from Strop.

There are two EPs on the Jealous Girlfriend Bandcamp page, one which looks more or less solo and one done with a little assistance from Cal from Youngstrr Joey. They’re both sort of hesitant and grumbly, but Eilidh’s voice is lovely so there is a really appealing combination of nice and nasty.

The guitar tone provides the nasty, but it is a pretty awesome kind of nasty, buzzing and grumbling its way through the songs with very little fuss. This may be as lo-fi as fuck – just listen to the hiss which precedes every track – but it’s not played with harshness or aggression particularly, just a bit of shy awkwardness here and there, a bit of deliberate insouciance, and wry charm pretty much everywhere else.

I don’t have a lot of references for this kind of thing and I am sure there are better comparisons to make, but there are touches of the tweeness of Kimya Dawson in the cute Keep Your Head Above the Water, but that song is about as far as it goes in that direction. I am glad about that as cuteness doesn’t generally do it for me all that much, but I do like a little bit of self-deprecating silliness here and there.

It’s hard to tell what this kind of project is intended to be, sometimes. Is it intended to be a full-blown, ambitious musical project? Just a way for a musician to work out some ideas? A ‘have a go and see what comes of it’ thing? Who knows, and to a degree who cares, it’s a little rough around the edges but there’s some good stuff in here.