Commercial suicide; The Monkees did it with 1968’s Frank Zappa-collaborating audio-visual brainfuck Head. Slade did it with their 1975 faux rockumentary Slade In Flame. You might even argue The Stone Roses did the same with their riff-heavy 1994 comeback ‘Second Coming’. All of the above; bands you thought you knew… until they decided to go all nutjob on your ass.
With the release of 2007’s ‘Hats Off To The Buskers’, The View were a more-generic-than-not four-piece Dundee-born-and-bred indie rock’n’roll band who had a few very good songs (the singles) and a whole load of other ones that sounded like stoned students fannying around with acoustic guitars. Two years later, their second album (“The title just means ‘Which bitch am I singing about in which song?’” boasts Kyle, in typically enlightened fashion…) suggests they’re now more akin to De La Soul meets the Buzzcocks meets Oasis meets The La’s – but Scottish, obviously – or The Libertines if they’d preferred tabs of LSD to toots on the crack pipe, tried to rhyme the word “Baghdad” with “sick bag” and had a serious disposition for pirates. It begs the question: do The View want to sell any records or what?
Yet while there’s nothing that’ll be gracing the playlist of Radio 1 with the ubiquity of ‘Same Jeans’, and they’ve most likely lost the floating V Festival fan partial to the drivetime rock of ‘Superstar Tradesmen’, by slicing their target demographic to an eighth of what it was, they’ve assembled a collection of songs that sees them escape the mistakes made by their school of 2007 peers. Whereas The Pigeon Detectives came back with a second album that sounded much like their first, The View’s second record is like one of those Blur costume changes of old; they’ve replaced their same old jeans for something with a looser fit.
It’s an eclectic listen: ‘One Off Pretender’ is as fun to listen to as one imagines it was to record, a white boy rap with a chorus – “shout it from the rooftops!” – that sounds like drunk tramps pleading for the offie to open.‘Unexpected’ is one of two forages the record makes into string-led melodrama, the result being pitched somewhere between an understated Love and Disney attempting film noir. The pirate-referencing ‘Distant Doubloon’ is the other, the most bizarre tune within a record of bizarre tunes and the most likely to make fans of ‘Same Jeans’ scratch their scalp raw. Best of all is the rabble-rock of ‘Shock Horror’, which sounds like people on drugs in a room shouting. Which, if you think about it, is pretty much the formula for all the best rock’n’roll ever made…
And so – aside from the throaty rasp of singer Kyle Falconer on lead-off single ‘5Rebbeccas’, the mushy ‘Temptation Dice’ and Paolo Nutini-featuring ‘Covers’ – there’s little here that’ll appeal to the hundreds of thousands of people who bought ‘Hats Off To The Buskers’. Yet it’s a good record regardless, and – in an age when so few of our bands take any risks and adhere to formulaic strategies for growth and expansion thrashed out in the boardrooms of major labels – you’ve got to applaud four young men who’ve said “fuck that” and gone in search of a smaller throng of folk more willing to have their brains busted by The View’s unique vision of rock’n’roll.