Think of the Eighties and a whole myriad of images probably flash through your mind. Thatcher and Reagan, deedly boppers, Frankie Says and maybe even George Michael‘s astonishing bouffant. There was another side to the Eighties though – polite, clean cut groups that were just a bit too dour for pop and too happy to be embraced by the indie brethren. Groups like China Crisis, Aztec Camera and Haircut 100 for example.
Many of those bands were produced by the duo of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, two names that will probably only be familiar to those teenagers who used to sit in their bedroom studying the back of album sleeves. Dogs Die In Hot Cars, a five piece from Glasgow, were obviously big fans of the aforementioned as Langer & Winstanley have been recruited to produce their debut album, Please Describe Yourself.
Given the producer’s pedigree, it shouldn’t be any surprise that the album’s opening track, Godhopping, sounds almost exactly like China Crisis, yet it does. Albums in 2004 aren’t meant to sound like this – Godhopping’s quirky piano riff and maddingly infectious vocal sounds like a message from another world. It works though – by the time the chorus flies around, the song’s already lodged in your head irretrievably.
Recent single I Love You Cause I Have To is even more successful, with a ska beat that could teach No Doubt a thing or two. Lead singer Craig McIntosh has a voice that’s reminiscent of both XTC‘s Andy Partridge and The Cure‘s Robert Smith, yet adds his own character to the song.
The standout track here though is probably Celebrity Sanctum, a languid tribute to Angelina Jolie, Lucy Lui and others (“Catherine Zeta Jones, yes her body is perfectly toned”). It’s arch and clever, yet stays just the right side of silliness – like Pulp, this is intelligent and witty pop at its finest.
It doesn’t always work however. Apples And Oranges is just a bit too retro, with its nagging keyboard riff proving a bit irritating by the song’s end. During the second half of the album the quality of the songs seems to dip (although the excellent Paul Newman’s Eyes is a notable exception), with tracks such as Modern Woman and Pastimes And Lifetimes sounding similar to what’s gone round before.
Overall though, Please Describe Yourself is a fine debut from a band ripe to help spearhead the musical renaissance of Glasgow. With Franz Ferdinand becoming the nation’s new favourites, Belle And Sebastian enjoying something of a commercial flourish, and now Dogs Die In Hot Cars establishing themselves, the future appears to be Scottish.