Sons And Daughters were dealt a somewhat rubbish hand, emerging as they did at more or less the same time as Franz Ferdinand, from the same city and on the same label – doomed forever to be thought of as ‘that other Glasgow band on Domino’. They’ve always been better than that.
Anyone who has ever dared to dismiss them in such off-hand terms should be chained to the wall in a dark basement frequented by the ghosts of Hamburg clubs and CBGBs and forced to listen to This Gift until their ears bleed. This is a superlative third album, which builds on its predecessors while looking to the future.
The lo-fi guitars chat up, seduce and jump into bed with dirty tambourines, battered piano chords, the odd bar sequence that threatens to morph into Jolene if no-one keeps an eye on it and vocals that could have belonged to a 60s girl group you wouldn’t want to take home to your mother. Filtered through Bernard Butler‘s production, nowhere is this more evident than on second track Split Lips or final track Goodbye Service.
In particular, the boy-girl vocal tricks are on top form, with Adele Bethel and Scott Paterson delivering the goods beautifully on title track This Gift, Chains and House In My Head over frenetic drums and dense guitars.
At times the album is as dark as a voodoo crossroads, at others playful, energetic and full of call-and-response wahoo-wayoos that you and your loved one can recreate on the dance floor all night long. Between now and the beginning of April, a sweaty dancefloor around the UK, Europe or the USA is no doubt joining in and moshing furiously as the band take their roadshow around the world.
There are a number of standout singles and could-be singles on This Gift, from the aforementioned Split Lips, to the title track, to Darling, to Iodine and virtually any of the others. All are full of energy, spiky bass lines, garage riffs and a hint of bluegrassy jazz that enhances the effect immeasurably. There’s a dark alt.country shadow over this album, washing it down with Glaswegian bourbon without ever losing the sense that life is there to be enjoyed.
This Gift is, in the end, a passionate album, characterised more than anything by The Bell’s repeated pleas to ‘hang on’. Some bands might take the milestone of their third album as an opportunity to settle into a tried and tested comfort zone. Some bands don’t even make it this far, others disappoint you into wishing they hadn’t. Few use it as an opportunity to raise the bar another notch and prove they’re still on an upward trajectory.
Smile and bask in the confidence of this album as final track Goodbye Service builds you up, brings you down slowly for the last dance of the night then, just when you think it’s all over, grabs you by the wrist for a final spin beneath the glitterball. Good things come to those who wait and This Gift augurs well for a career that still has a long way to go.