A shout out this evening to Doug Johnstone. I know his work best through his three published novels (the new one ‘Smokeheads’ reviewed here) but he’s also had a parallel career as a musican with Fence associates Northern Alliance. About whom I know little more than zero. In fact, slightly embarrasingly, my only previous exposure to Doug’s music has been the Ossians CD recorded to accompany his novel of the same name. Admitting to buying a CD by a fictional band because I liked a novel seems almost as sad as admitting to buying a TV Theme tunes album. Although it’s not.

Anyhow, with Northern Alliance on one of their periodic sabbaticals, Doug has taken the opportunity to record his first solo E.P.  ‘Keep It Afloat’ which is released on Monday sorry Sunday through his Bandcamp. And actually the Ossians CD isn’t a bad reference point.

I confess that I wasn’t entirely struck by the couple of songs that Doug played at the Cargo vs Chemikal gig last month so I was slightly surprised to find that not only do they both feature on the E.P. but I actually like them rather a lot. The title track is an epic indie anthem with big guitars and a memorable piano melody whilst the brilliantly titled ‘Bjork Is Calling From The Wreckage’ is a darker piece bulding from its acoustic intro to a fairly rowdy climax.

“Side two” of the E.P. shares similar DNA to Malcolm Middleton, the self deprecating ‘I Used To Drum In A Rock’n’Roll Band’ opens briefly a like bit early OMD 1980 before adding guitars and a meandering bass line. Unlike some Middleton songs though Johnstone realises in the course of the  songs that this rock’n’roll past was actually a good time. Final track  ‘Song For The End of the Set’ features banks of acoustic guitars and a driving bass line and probably actually delivers exactly what the title suggests it should.

The E.P. costs just £2 as a download whilst there is a physical CD version for an extra quid. Listen to and buy the E.P. at Doug’s Bandcamp.

Going back to ‘Smokeheads’, sort of …

Doug is appearing at the following venues in coming months – expect readings and some songs:

29th April Word Power Bookshop, Edinburgh
7th May Ullapool Book Festival
13-19th June Westfest, Dundee
26th August Edinburgh International Book Festival
7 & 8th October Portobello Book Festival
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