Scotland. What gives? If they’re not dominating the pop landscape with floppy-fringed hipsters, they’re slowly building up a vanguard of some of the most interesting and quirky musicians found anywhere on these fair Isles. King Creosote, aka Kenny Anderson, is the co-founder and figurehead of Fife’s wonderfully eccentric and frequently brilliant Fence Collective, a loose group of purveyors of “skewered folk, folkadelica, nonsensical, bluedoh and swampguff”.
While this motley crew can be frustratingly erratic (Lone Pigeon) or overly earnest (James Yorkston), they have also produced some superb, timeless folk-pop. Rocket DIY, King Creosote’s second album, is a bewitching, unique and endearing record that just might be the collective’s finest hour to date.
Following up from the excellent, if patchy, Kenny And Beth’s Musakal Boat Rides (a mix of a decade’s worth of King Creosote CD-Rs), Rocket DIY is a more coherent, more controlled effort. Written and recorded in the space of a few weeks, it also offers a clearer picture of Anderson the man – witty, romantic, mournful and faintly mystical.
Anderson’s unaffected Scottish voice has an ethereal, but homely quality. He sounds like he’s singing to you from both a bygone era and direct from your living room. Not as piercing as Scottish pop prince Colin McIntyre (aka The Mull Historical Society) or as harsh as fellow-Fencer UNPOC, Anderson is at times closer to a tartan Nick Drake.
Disarmingly mundane and colloquial lyrics pepper his songs. On Twin Tub Twin he trills: “She said, you strike me as somebody who’s four loads behind on the wash, you need a little wifie”, while in Crow’s Feet he suggests: “Let’s leave the lemmings to do their thing, let’s you and I avoid the Burger King”. There’s also a wry, self deprecating tone, laughing at himself dancing “like a twat” in clogs and claiming:”Oh, you can all have a laugh on me”.
Often more wistful than “…Boat Ride”, Rocket DIY gives us a better overall sense of a man at a certain period of his life. Anderson ruminates on relationships and age consciousness (“You’re growing old, you’re growing tense, I was past thirty five years of age before my face made much sense”), while the slower tracks such as A Month of Firsts create a yearning that’s both sad and hopeful.
But this is no simple, melancholic, hemp-trouser-wearing folk-dirge. Anderson’s experimental instincts give his songs an electronic musicality that, thankfully, stops short of overwhelming studio trickery. He is much more committed to the concept of an “entire song” than eccentric lo-fi dabbler Lone Pigeon, who happens to be Kenny’s brother.
From squeaking children’s singing voices and banjo twangs, to stuttering drum loops and electro-blips, there’s plenty of invention and energy to remind us that Anderson’s more than capable of inspired pop craziness. King Bubbles In Sand is a joyous little tune that will have you smiling uncontrollably, the drumming on Saffy Nool by Captain Geeko is riveting, while The Things, Things, Things is a catchy ditty with more than a little sea-shanty jauntiness.
If the thought of all this conjures up images of Glastonbury green fields, bongos, and random beeps and whistles, think again. Rocket DIY is a layered, delicious slice of electro-folk from a lovable maverick. Get this straight: The world is a far better place with King Creosote around.