Reviewing the records that I’m most looking forward to, by bands that I love, is almost the hardest thing to do for the blog. There’s always a nagging fear that my words won’t fully convey my enthusiasm.
So when it comes to, what may well be, THE most anticipated record of the year in this house I do feel under a little pressure.
That feeling of dread is not helped by the fact that the wait for the first proper studio recordings from Book Group seems to have been interminable. Even though, in retrospect it’s not that much more than 18 months since I first saw them play live (under their original name of the Bad Books).
Around a dozen thrilling shows since have ensured that any record was going to have quite a lot to live up to. Simply put, Book Group seem to have it all live. A charismatic front man in Graeme Anderson, one of Scotland’s most exciting guitarists in Michael Morrison and a rock solid rhythm section in Scott Finnigan (bass) and Andrew Brodie (drums) – the four of them playing material which I’ve been excited by from the start and is certainly accessible but never predictable.
Thankfully their debut E.P. ‘Homeward Sound’ delivers on the promise of the live shows.
‘Year of the Cat’ opens proceedings and it stays true to the live version with little in the way of studio enhancement. It’s the most direct song on the E.P., ushered in on a wave of feedback before the band piles in with all guns blazing on Graeme’s exhortation ‘So come on!”.
If its directness may be slightly atypical, ‘Year of the Cat’ is representative of the band’s ambitious approach to melodies in that they are categorically not restricted to the traditional structure of verse with the hook in the chorus . So the melodies pop up throughout the song lending it real depth.
By contrast, ‘Seedlings’ does stick to the convention of a big, big hook in its chorus. With some of the guitars backing up the verses hinting at Joshua Tree era U2, in less skillful hands ‘Seedlings’ could easily have been taken into overblown territory but Book Group resist the temptation to throw the kitchen sink at the tune to deliver an anthemic hate song about Graeme’s home town.
The last of the faster tracks, ‘Summer of Lunches’, may be my favourite song on the record. The original live set opener, it closes proceedings here. It’s got a lighter touch and is more measured than ‘Year of the Cat’ but still retains the type of energy they’re becoming known for live, subtly enhancing the tune’s run-out with an additional keyboard melody.
That trio of songs represents the band’s faster material, but it wouldn’t be a Book Group E.P. without an indication of what else they can do. ‘BOP’ therefore demonstrates the band’s more expansive side. With a slow build intro (even if it’s been trimmed back a little from the original live intro) it’s the one that illustrates that Book Group can be subtle about how they deliver the sucker punch.
Odd though it is to finally hear these songs recorded properly, ‘Homeward Sound’ is every bit as good as I’d hoped. It still feels like it’s just the start of something big but Book Group have massive potential and this E.P. is just the down payment.
The four track E.P. will be available on limited 10” vinyl and download. Your first (and possibly last) chance to get the vinyl is at the E.P. launch at Pilrig St Paul’s Church off Leith Walk in Edinburgh on Saturday 18th May. Tickets for the show are available here.
Here’s a listen to ‘BOP’:
And an MPT shot live video of ‘Summer of Lunches’: