AC Acoustics - Understanding Music
More treasure from the deep and another band that time forgot. The ongoing vogue for lovingly appended re-issues continues apace: add this gem to the recent spate (The Triffids, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Furniture’s essential The Wrong People.) AC Acoustics, a compelling outfit left by the roadside by the emerging late 80s indie pop juggernaut, deserved so much more. We all know nostalgia ain’t what it used to be but how easily the slightest rose tint twists the memory. No such worries here. Returning to Understanding Music after so long (upon release, a friend taped it for me) reveals its true value. If I played you this beautifully abrasive, undoubtedly cerebral record ‘blind’ and told you to look out for them in the coming months, you’d nod like an eager puppy. Therein lies the heartbreak. AC Acoustics supported, it seemed, every man and his dog during the 90s. Their peers (Snow Patrol, Embrace, Placebo) went on to fill arenas with considerably less to offer the discerning music fan. Like Echo and the Bunnymen before them, disbelieving of their supposed comrades in arms (U2, Simple Minds) vaulting way above them, this lot must have ground their teeth at what slim pickings they were ultimately served up. The irony in 2010 is that while they couldn’t penetrate The Indie Scene of the late 90s, they now sound so oddly current I reckon that with a shabby office in London, a phone and about £300 I could get them halfway up the Reading bill by next summer.
Understanding Music is the Glasgow band’s third (of four) album, released in 2000. While its predecessor contained a couple of better known tracks, this is their most ambitious work by some distance. Fashioned from vocals whispered and ghostly, and whiplash guitar, its later influence can now be judged. If Biffy Clyro, Idlewild and The Twilight Sad swore they’d never heard it, I’d reach for my patented nose measurer. Understanding Music hops gymnastically from a whisper to a scream; no doubt, there is enough anthemic pull on the likes of ‘Crush’ and Super Cup’ to show that we asked far too little of the current field-fillers. Half-light vocals, Glasgow brogue present and correct, come in varying shades of urgency and turmoil. Buried in the mix, so many of the words simply inaccessible, Understanding Music delivers delicious mystery. For the hardcore, the extra tracks are worthy rather than dusty oddities.
AC Acoustics. What’s in a name ? AC. Alternative Current. This lot were, still are, the former (inarguably) and the latter (heart-breakingly.) That they gave up the ghost years ago is scandalous. Equipped with both muscle and brains, this an album that compels you to raise your IQ as well as your arms.