Mull Historical Society : Loss

Mull Historical Society : Loss

Score

Remote Scottish Island duo make good indie debut,suited to mainland consumption

This should be the album

at the end of rock. A speccy virgin from a remote Scottish island

jangling an acoustic and naming himself after his local archaeology club

– how sodding tedious is that going to be, eh? It should be eleven

maudlin dirges called things like ‘Now Look At The Early Saxon Markings

On This Relic, Kenneth’. Then Colin MacIntyre yelps “Join us! The

Mull Historical Society!”[/I] and suddenly you’re diving for the

membership forms. Because, while Starsailor, Coldplay and a trillion

over-earnest little tramp folk bands want you to show some respect for

their mewling trad, only Mull Historical Society pick up their

acoustics with the intent to party. They owe more to Super Furry Animals

(‘Mull Historical Society’ is ‘Northern Lites’ feeling queasy on

a Hebridean ferry), and sadly defunct mid-’90s Scotpop experimentalists

Dawn Of The Replicants than Tim Buckley, mucking cheerfully around with

BBC Sound Effects records, rusty ’80s synths, xylophones, fairground

carousel noises, children’s choirs and a large stack of kitchen sinks

in their mission to put the pop back into ‘populist acoustic

balladry’.

It’s the slivers of vaguely camp kitsch that make

‘Loss’ the best acoustic pop album of 2001. The Olivia Newton-John

references on the Pulp-do-The-Who classic ‘Watching Xanadu’. The

prim choirboys trilling and whistling beautifically over an underwater

harpsichord on the cloudbusting ballad ‘Instead’. The way ‘I

Tried’ is so obviously fellas from a remote Scottish island with a

Stylophone trying to be Aretha Franklin, and almost succeeding.

Like their British equivalent, Clearlake, MHS inhabit a sepia-swamped

world freeze-framed in around 1973, populated by baked-bean-stinking

dole scum and infused with small-town glories. There’s the supermarket

stoner bunking up in the storeroom on ‘Barcode Bypass’, the

downtrodden wage slaves whooping on ‘This Is Not

Who We Were’ and the tragedy-waiting-to-happen smack couple of

‘Strangeways Inside’, which is basically an antique ballerina music

box playing ‘No Surprises’. The overall effect is a bit like a gang

of unemployed miners invading the Stars In Their Eyes studio and

beating Matthew Kelly to death with a rolled-up parish newsletter.

The

Mull Historical Society holds its AGMs in the space between the sublime,

the ridiculous and the awesomely catchy and, as an opening agenda,

‘Loss’ discards the original plan of studying ancient Roman pottery

in favour of total world domination. All in favour say ‘Aye, Colin’.

Mark Beaumont