Noise and melody. After all these years it’s a combination that’s, for me, still hard to beat and one reason why Edinburgh School for the Deaf leapt so effortlessly to the top of the list of MPT favourites on the back of performing one original song at the Dylan Uncovered show in February.
But debut LP ‘New Youth Bible’ is finally here and we now have more than one original to judge them on. Did I get a little excited too quickly?
The answer is a resounding ‘no’. That one song they played at the Voodoo Rooms is ‘Of Scottish Blood and Sympathies’ and whilst it may be the traditional set closer in a live setting, it’s first up here. It is in many ways a perfect distillation of what makes ESFTD so great. Ashley’s plaintive vocals are given prominence early on in the song but as it progresses they’re largely subsumed as the boys whip up a convincing storm.
If there’s nothing quite as epic elsewhere on the record, there’s still a feeling that ESFTD only really expand to fill the space when it’s absolutely essential to do so. So there’s a pleasing economy to the likes of ’11 Kinds of Loneliness’ and ‘Love Is Terminal’ which both make their point then leave.
If I put them somewhere between Sonic Youth and shoegaze when I reviewed single ‘Orpheus Descending’ (frustratingly NOT included here) then the LP clearly identifies the third side of the triangle as the Mary Chain on the likes of ‘Thirteen Holy Crowns’ and ‘Memories of Wound’.
It’s important to note though that melody is a crucial component of the ESFTD sound throughout and ‘All Hands Lost’ is a more gentle VU influenced tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on either of the Saint Jude’s LPs.
Although it’s almost certainly deliberate, the fact that the LP ends on something of a downer is perhaps the only slight disappointment. The brilliantly titled ‘My Name Is Scotland and I’m An Alcoholic’ is a dirge reminiscent of ‘Yerself Is Steam’ era Mercury Rev and its proximity to the downbeat closing track does mean that the record peters out slightly.
But it’s a minor quibble given all the energy expended elsewhere as ‘New Youth Bible’ lives up to all expectations. Which is something of a relief as I did have a slight worry about the record before hearing it. Apparently the band had considered replacing some of the songs on it with some of their newer tunes all of which might have implied something of a lack of confidence in some of the material. Listening to the record though all such worries were completely unfounded and the only disappointment is that we’re not likely to hear some of these songs live again.
‘New Youth Bible’ is thrilling proof that rock music can be exciting and beautiful at the same time. Don’t delay. Get it here.
Listen to the LP here.
Edinburgh School for the Deaf play Dexter’s in Dundee on Thursday 30th June (tickets) and also the next Ides of Toad show at Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh on 2nd July (tickets). Unfortunately I think their Glasgow show on 1st has been cancelled.