Inspired by a cloned horse...
On the back cover of ‘This Is Hope’ there is a photograph of Colin MacIntyre, who is[a]Mull Historical Society[/a], crouching stealthily behind a grassy rise. He is clad in an appalling green V-neck sweater and is brandishing an unwieldy, archaic-looking tape recorder at an unknowing sheep.
And that’s the album in a nutshell. Strange,
out of time, unfashionable, eccentric, obsessed with found sound, full of boffiny tics and tricks…
no ovine vocal performances, but otherwise a perfect visual metaphor for MacIntyre’s ways.
He just can’t help himself – even if the man
crafted a pure pop nugget as pristine and blemishless as ‘There She Goes’ or ‘Crazy In Love’, he’d still feel the need to set it to a rhythm section composed entirely of popping bubble wrap.
Or something like that.
The record itself is named after a painting of, to put not too fine a point on it, a dog in a wig. And that’s not a bad metaphor either: on one level, friendly and affectionate, but with something very wrong about it. At first glance, the album is brimming with breezy melodies, but with a myriad irregularities never far from the surface. ‘This Is The Hebrides’, for example, cranks into its gently plucked melancholia to a rhythm of water trickles and plops, while the beautifully aching lament of ‘Death Of A Scientist (A Vision Of Man Over Machine, 2004)’ slowly morphs over seven minutes into an unholy cacophony of pipe organ, reverb, distorted vocals and dislocated breakbeats, [a]Beatles[/a]’ ‘Revolution 9’ clad in twisted seam denim. The monolithic closer, ‘In The Next Life (A Requiem)’, is MacIntyre’s ‘Life On Mars’, all mountain-top swoops of piano and awestruck vocals, and again boils up to an almighty crescendo of found sounds – it would be that Big Gigantic Epic Rock Song Noel Gallagher has always been threatening to write, were it not set to
a skew-whiff, incongruously tippy-tap synth-beat. There are straight moments – the insanely summery ‘How ‘Bout I Love You More’ and its big fat grinning chorus, most notably – but these just throw ‘This Is Hope”s manifold weirdnesses into brighter light. So if the record company people looking for a poster quote, something to nail ‘This Is Hope’ in one digestible bite-sized phrase: this album is a dog in a wig, waving a tape recorder
at a sheep. Hope that’s clear.