Scotland’s answer to The Libertines stoke the urch-rock flames
Here he comes now, falling out of Club NME Dunfermline at 5am after DJing, off his knackers on buffalo tranquillisers. Brushing the fresh crust of dried-in Magners from the jeans he’s been wearing since New Year’s Eve 2004, he heads straight off for a day on the bins. He’s a permanently skint child of the schemes, he can recite Trainspotting by heart and, though he’s not got a heroin habit himself, he knows all the skagheads from the queue for ASBOs. He’s The View’s muse – the every-yob protagonist drinking, drugging and dancing his way through the urban Scottish wastelands of their debut album, and he is, quite frankly, on fire.
You’ve met our hero before: he’s been a fairly ubiquitous character in indie these past few years. You might have stepped over him sprawled in a Whitechapel gutter back in ’04, spotted him getting leathered by Sheffield bouncers in ’05 or necked a sack of mushrooms with the scruffbag at a Thamesbeat barge party in ’06. He is your common or garden urch, and it’s easy to peg The View’s debut as his last post. The point at which the Libertonian romance of the breadline inner city bohemian saturates the UK, from the Old Blue Last to John O’Groats in some musical Great Flood sent to level the land to make way for The Twang’s 2007 nu-baggy rave-up. It’s as if grot’n’roll has been on an Albion-length recruitment march up the M6 and, two years later, wound up off its cakehole in a squat in Dundee: certainly ‘Hats Off To The Buskers’ takes the heroic waster aesthetic and gives it a distinctly Caledonian spin, from the housing-scheme hoedown of ‘Gran’s For Tea’ to the pig latin Rab C Nesbitt-speak of ‘Wasted Little DJs’ (“Astedwae ittlae ejaysdae”) – see what they’ve done there, indie code-breakers? On ‘Wasteland’, there’s even the first ever recorded attempt at Scottish ska. So we’re well within our rights to take one look at ‘Hats Off…’, see ‘Whatever You Say I Am…’ gone ned, type the words ‘Dirty Kilty Things’ and go back to sucking the rave juice out of our glowsticks, right?
Well no, because there’s far more lurking behind the tramp-chic fringes of Kyle Falconer and muckers than just a sporran-sporting Libs – The View are ablaze with three decades of punk-flecked pop, from Iggy through the Buzzcocks and The La’s to our recent crop of straw-hatted dandies. A standard roll call of influences for a modern rock combo, sure, but as Dustin Hoffman explains in Perfume before it goes shit, it’s not the ingredients, it’s all in the mixing.
Fittingly, for a record gatecrashing the urch-rock party near dawn, we open on a raucous downer. ‘Comin’ Down’ is a scabrous slice of Stooges stodge-rock more in tune with 22-20s, The Datsuns or er, Jet than their gypsydelic contemporaries such as Larrikin Love or The Holloways, only rescued from shameless retro-ism by Kyle’s luscious Celtic yelp that you can imagine bellowing out a request for 12 fish suppers across a deserted tenement. But it’s the glam-pop Cheeky Girl of ‘Superstar Tradesman’ where ‘Hats Off…’ really blasts off in a blaze of Undertones twangles and girlband handclaps. The tale of a young brickie swapping mortar board for fretboard and (sniff) Never Giving Up On His Dreams, it’s this generation’s ‘Teenage Kicks’ and The View’s signature sentiment: “What would you do/If I asked you/To sail away with me and see some sights?” Kyle wails as only a working class Highlands teenager desperate for escape and adventure ever could. Are you listening, The Feeling?
From here ‘Hats Off…’ freewheels for 25 minutes. ‘Same Jeans’ – the filthy/gorgeous stop-out – is a harmonica folk wonder, part-La’s, part-Holloways, part-Babyshambles learning to play their instruments, part-Kings Of Leon going hog-bastard mental in a kebab shop ceilidh on deep-fried amphetamines. ‘Don’t Tell Me’ and ‘The Don’ lollop along like Larrikin Love doing Chas & Dave; the Doherty-esque ‘Skag Trendy’ finds Kyle exploring Scottish junkie street life while his tonsils attempt to somersault out of his mouth; and the Kooksian ‘Face For The Radio’ (despite being about an ugly, Trainspotting-obsessed scrounger) lullabies us delightfully up to the rabble riot of ‘Wasted Little DJs’ – the brilliance of which you’ll know unless you’ve been unconscious under a set of decks since last July.
After which The View’s fire splutters. Cramming 14 tracks into 40 minutes, it’s inevitable that, bar the sweet, jazzy croon of ‘Claudia’, ‘Hats Off…’ descends into innocuous filler. ‘Dance Into The Night’ is bog-standard jig-pop and the ploddy ‘Street Lights’ could have dropped off any of the last three Oasis albums.
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But if ‘Hats Off…’ is slightly too much, too soon, they’ve still done enough to impress: they’ll never get their bedheads around new rave and they’ll never connect with The Horrors’ crowd, but with the grot’n’roll spirit lashed to a grand tradition of Scots melodicism and a healthy dose of small-town escapism, The View’s flame can only rage harder.