The Reindeer Section
Son of Evil Reindeer
Pias America / Bright Star
Now THIS is a supergroup: no less than 27 Scottish musicians appear on this second album by the Reindeer Section, whose Y’all Get Scared Now, Ya Hear! was one of the more buzzed-about UK records of 2001. It’s the brainchild of Gary Lightbody, whose own band, The Snow Patrol is just coming into its own now, and contains members of everybody in Scotland except, seemingly, Aereogramme: Idlewild, Teenage Fanclub, The Vaselines, Mull Historical Society, and good old Belle and Sebastian (among other bands) are all represented here.
That’s the hype, but how does it sound? Well, it sounds like a whole bunch of people having fun being miserable. A lot of these songs are unbearably sad, which squares up nicely with Lightbody’s melancholy voice and world-view. “Your Sweet Voice” sounds like it’s going to be a lovely affirmation of romance, but before the song’s even hit the one-minute mark Lightbody is noticing that she’s looking at someone else. (Hide all the razor blades, kids, we’re in Scotland!) “Budapest” breaks his heart; “Cold Water” can’t bring him back to life. Lightbody is anything but light-spirited.
The happy downness continues even when Lightbody isn’t on the microphone — Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffit lends his distinctive bummed-out burr to the last (and best) song, “Whodunnit?”, and when Roddy Woomble of Idlewild tells you “Only God can judge me know, I hope he’s in” on “Who Told You,” you’ll be reaching for that box of tissues. And Eugene Kelly’s duet with Jenny Reeve (the hot magenta-haired singer from Eva) on “Strike Me Down” sounds like the Beach Boys on emo-oids, lightly and poppily essaying all the sins of a relationship with ba-ba-ba backing vocals: “Just think of all the things I’ve done to you / Any time you want me back, girl.”
Not everything is grey in Scotland, though. “Cartwheels” suggests that maybe, just maybe, Lightbody might have had a good time at some point: “The pessimism in me yawns / As I’m pissin’ on your perfect front lawn” might be the couplet of the year, and it lifts everything out of the Slough of Despond for a bit. And “You Are My Joy” lives up to its title by rocking out a little and featuring a smile-inducing chorus from Pop Heaven. (I can imagine Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake, who sings backup on a couple of these songs but not this one, kicking himself for not writing the chorus of this one already.) It’s kind of ambiguous lyrically, but that chorus kicks ass so you forget about all the weirdness in the verses.
This record is extremely pretty, if you’re not above a little depression and some slow-country-pop-related attention-span issues. These songs seem like they will fall apart, but they never do. Worth a lot of listens.
Pias America: http://www.pias.com