Glasvegas - EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\
All the hot new acts who have either got a debut album in the works, or recently released, would do well to cast their eyes north of the border to Glasvegas. Unquestionably one of the most hyped bands of 2008, their eponymous debut received pretty much unanimous critical acclaim, so the problem facing them - as it will the likes of The Vaccines, Jessie J et al in the years to come - is how to make a similar impact without the crutch of the ‘next big thing’ tag. Fortunately, Glasvegas haven’t tried anything drastic to grab back the spotlight and instead use EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ as a platform to hone their craft and expand their immersive sound to stadium levels, adding up to a highly enjoyable, if not entirely flawless, follow up in the process.
Not that you’d get that from the opening track ‘Pain Pain, Never Again’ though, as the mainly French spoken word intro and backing of a wall of synths could easily be dismissed as arty at best, pretentious at worst. Its main crime though is that it’s just too long, as it essentially acts as a segueway into the magnificent ‘The World Is Yours’ with its powerhouse chorus delivered passionately by James Allan – “If my lips kissed yours / If I’m your world / Then the world is yours” – and a final bridge that reclaims the soaring key change for rock music everywhere, just in case people think it’s just a cue for Westlife to get off their stools.
What’s immediately noticeable is the impact that new drummer Jonna Löfgren has had on the overall sound, with the sub-Meg White drumming replaced by a drumbeat that really drives the music on. It’s not the only addition to their sound, with a heavier emphasis on synth noticeable, particularly effective on the astonishing ‘Whatever Hurts You Through The Night’ that has a simplistic, but perfect, keys hook that lifts it from the epic into the stratospheric. Much remains the same though, which could prove to be a stumbling block for anyone not already familiar with the band’s very particular style. Allan’s vocal delivery still requires concentration levels usually only reserved for Mensa tests in order to decipher lyrics, while riffs and hooks are generally overlooked in favour of the band's penchant for massive walls of sound.
Despite this, EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ is arguably a more accessible effort and that’s mainly down to its sunnier disposition when compared to their debut, perfectly encapsulated by ‘Euphoria, Take My Hand’ – “Heartbreak, I’m not holding your hand any more / Why can’t you understand? / Euphoria, take my hand”. It could almost be described as a sense of freedom, resulting in tracks like ‘Shine Like Stars’, which is as close to electro pop/rock as Glasvegas are ever likely to get, replete with some excellent guitars and a punchy chorus.
It’s not all perfect, with the main culprits being ‘You’ and ‘I Feel Wrong (Homosexuality Pt. 1)’ and although they’re not dreadful, they are definitely filler territory. The latter in particular aims for the downbeat and powerful but really only succeeds in being dreary and entirely passive. Album closer ‘Change’, where James Allan’s mother makes a guest appearance, will also prove divisive. It may be fitting finale for the cathartic tone bubbling under the album’s surface – “Listen son, don’t be scared / Please don’t be afraid / The monsters, they’re gone” – but it’s questionable whether you’d listen more than once as a curio, instead of just ending proceedings prematurely.
Ending one track earlier with the naggingly repetitive ‘Lots Sometimes’, with its marching drum beat holding proceedings together as all the other elements slowly build into a stunning whole, would certainly have brought things to a close on a higher note. Therein lies the main pattern with EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\: effectively it’s a solid album punctuated by moments of excellence that generally make you forgive the inconsistent nature of the overall album. The current ‘next big thing’ will happily settle for that when the difficult second album syndrome rolls around.