…and there I was, some twenty minutes or so into this album by Glasgow’s electro-pop five-piece, A BAND CALLED QUINN, feeling quite guilt-ridden at struggling to find anything that would enable me to be more positive about ‘The Beggars Opera.’ On first listen, I was thinking that yeah, perhaps someone more comfortable with the current ‘chart’ music might feel more of an instant reaction. Compared to some of the sterile pap that’s currently around, this might be seen as ‘different’ and a little ‘edgy.’
But for me, it just wasn’t working.
Then the CD reached track number six: ‘He’s A Dog.’ Now we’re getting quirky. Now it really gets different and interesting. (My mood perked up.) A stilted drumbeat and vocalist Louise Quinn singing in her ‘talking’ voice with no other initial accompaniment until a quiet little keyboard line joins in ahead of some ghostly wailings and haunted echoes. A distant trumpet tries to quell the tormented sounds… but to no avail.
(Another version of this song completes the album at track number eleven. The vocals are this time credited to Maxi Geil and while it is still pretty atmospheric, it doesn’t quite match the original. Both versions incidentally, remind me a little of Sabres Of Paradise and ‘Wilmot’ from many years ago – especially where the trumpet comes in.)
Anyway, with the next track ‘History’ taking on a more moody, bluesy feel, I was getting drawn more into this album. ‘Consequence Waits’ is very quiet and subdued until it picks up pace about a third of the way through. The chanted backing vocals would be almost hypnotic if not so forceful, and run the risk of usurping the whole song. Hmmm?!
‘Another Thin Girl’ however made a sudden grab for my attention, with its dark, threatening and dirty bass line sounding a bit like Iggy Pop’s ‘Nightclubbing.’ This is then followed by possibly the best song on the album, certainly from a ‘commercial’ point of view, ‘Wolf Cries Boy.’ This one IS ‘instant’ (even to a grumpy old punk like me) with a really bouncy feel and soulful, but light sounding vocals. The chorus is just one big ‘hook’ and I guarantee every listener will join in with the ‘dih, dih, dih’ line! (You’ll know what I mean when you listen to it…!)
So, with my enthusiasm restored, I revisited the first few tracks in a more positive frame of mind – and found there is indeed a good deal more to the album than I first thought. OK, maybe the opening track is more Lady Gaga (for all I know about Lady Gaga!) and general ‘pop’ than I would normally go for, but it’s quite inoffensive and pleasant. ‘Virgin, Mother, Psycho, Whore’ is upbeat, but with a sort of bitter and twisted vocal delivery. There are handclaps, which are always good!
‘We Are The Scum’ is a great title, and a terrific song. At various points however, I can’t help but think of Jesus and Mary Chain teaming up with Roberta Flack for pub sing-a-long version of ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song.’ Check it out! And do you remember The Bloodhound Gang and their song ‘Bad Touch’? Try saying the following as you listen to the chanted section of ‘The Fuse’:
‘You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals, so let’s do it like they do on the discovery channel.’
(All right I’m being flippant, but it works. It’s still a good electro-beat song though.)
See – sometimes patience is indeed a virtue. ‘The Beggars Opera’ is just a little too ‘burlesque’ in fashion for my personal taste, but it does have a lot going for it.
(Released through Tromolo Records on 25th October 2010)