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Sons and Daughters: This Gift

The Stop Smiling Review

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Sons and Daughters: This Gift
(Domino)

Reviewed by Dan Pearson

Who remembers a word from Love the Cup, Sons and Daughters’ debut EP from 2004? It didn’t hit the head after all, but came up through the floor and feet like nothing else from Scotland — or anywhere — with the bass and drums balled into a fist and the guitar poking you in the chest, instigating, taunting. This wasn’t your typical Glaswegian indie fare. No trace here of a cardigan, no sideways haircut, no shambling session with Jad Fair and Stephen Pastel. The antecedents were Bo Diddley, Alan Vega. Indeed, this was menace, as if Exene and John Doe had washed up on a Clyde barge. Live it was even more primal, with the band sentried around singer Adele Bethel as she hurled herself, entranced, inviting everyone in with muddy talons. Halfway through the set, you wanted to leave a trail of breadcrumbs.

But that was three years ago, and now the band returns with its second full-length, This Gift, with Suede’s former guitarist, Bernard Butler, at the controls. For this one, the band locked themselves in remote Ardfern, Scotland to write what they willingly call “a great pop record.” Sounds a bit like Stone Roses self-medicating in Wales. You see Crowded House laughing in some barn. One worries about radio pressure: Heavy on the sugar and the next thing you know you’re Darling Buds. But no need to worry, for the sound on This Gift is still merciless and unrelenting — a “Middle Class Revolt” nourished on Tex-Mex and tequila.

Butler has brought the sound out into the light and air, with bigger beats and strums and more space for the lyrics to emerge and lend depth and their own darkness to the mix. Depression. Homelessness. Ted Hughes. This is the lyrical subject matter. Narrative in a kernel. But you can indeed hear pop hits. Thanks to Butler, you still feel it, too. Don’t think of The La’s. Think Doolittle. For here now is a band again in ascension — less linear, trying to invoke a Wall of Sound that would still get the nod from Albini. Makes sense if you think about it: Phil Spector was always one note away from madness. Gratefully, so are Sons and Daughters.

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