The Scottish music scene has produced some fine bands over the last few years, such as The Delgados and last year’s big success story Franz Ferdinand. Sons And Daughters sprung from one of the veterans of the scene, Arab Strap, after touring members Adele Bethel and David Gow decided to form their own band.
Support slots with both the aforementioned Delgados and Franz Ferdinand followed, and their mini-album Love The Cup was released last year. Love The Cup was good, but didn’t seem to really capture the incendiary nature of the band that’s apparent in their live shows. That problem has been solved by The Repulsion Box by adding the impressive figure of Victor Van Vugt, who has previously worked with Nick Cave amongst others, as producer.
The compelling, fiery nature of The Repulsion Box is exposed from the first chord of opening track Medicine. For one deliciously surreal moment, you think that lead singer Bethal’s about to launch into a cover of Yummy Yummy Yummy I’ve Got Love In My Tummy until the song takes off, with urgent guitar lines and co-vocalist Scott Patterson proving the perfect deadpan back up for Bethal’s intense voice. It’s dark, dramatic and the aural equivalent of a huge shot of adrenaline.
The pace doesn’t let up for a minute, be it the stabbed guitar chords of Red Receiver, the pounding insanity of Hunt or the handclaps of Royally Used. Only Choked reins things in and brings the tempo down a tad, but even here there’s still a sinister undercurrent with tales of “burying my good name” and “bodies on the run”
Yet Sons And Daughters don’t just deal with dramatic atmospherics – there’s a great pop sensibility about both the Edwyn Collins produced single Dance Me In and Taste The Last Girl, the latter actually recalling the jangly heyday of The Smiths, but with more menace sat behind it. The highlight has to be the dark, Spaghetti Western-themed tale of Rama Lama, about a girl who meets a lonely end while in the bath – “The neighbours they don’t even know or care/Drip, drip, drip goes the tap on her ankles” as one lyrical couplet starkly puts it.
Bethal is the star throughout – like PJ Harvey or The Duke Spirit‘s Leila Moss, her voice can switch from sensual one minute to scarily unhinged the next, especially on the closing track of Gone. The fact that both her and Patterson’s vocals play up their heavy Glaswegian accents isn’t a Proclaimers-style gimmick either, rather it gives a depth to each song that a more conventional vocal would lack. As Patterson sings on Monster: “All the best psychotic lovers ain’t got nothing on you”. Damn right.
If there’s a minor criticism to be made, it’s that unrelenting pace which could leave the less committed listener feeling emotionally exhausted by the end of the album. But if you can cope with the intensity, there are rewards aplenty to be found here – Sons And Daughters are the perfect group to fill the hole that The Delgados left when they split up last year.