When you’ve seen a band perform live over several years there’s always a risk that, when they finally make an album, it’s not quite going to live up to your expectations. So in that context I confess that I approached ‘The Great Indoors’, the debut LP by Book Group, with just a little trepidation.
I needn’t have worried. Since getting a promo copy of the album I’ve been listening to it pretty much non-stop on repeat.
Sonically TGI largely eschews the heavier side of the band, showcased on second E.P. ‘Tantrums’. Instead the Edinburgh four piece have opted for presenting their poppier side with a brighter production, not dissimilar to that on the double A-sided single ‘Victory Lap’/’Lowdown of a LOUD Sound’.
And it’s an approach that is perfectly suited to the material because what makes ‘The Great Indoors’ is … well, how GREAT, these songs are.
With only one tune from their impressive back catalogue included here, the newer material has quite a lot to live up to. Yet from start to finish each and every tune manages to do that with some aplomb as they’re all laden with intoxicating twists and memorable hooks.
Most recent single ‘Kickstart’ sets the bar high in that regard – to some extent it’s ‘Lowdown …’ on speed yet, if anything, it’s more infectious than that previous single.
‘Mayonnaise’ is a thrilling three and a half minute ride whilst the redone ‘Year of the Cat’ shows off what the band has always been good at.
Yet if part of ‘The Great Indoors’ builds on the band’s strengths so far, the album is also notable for taking the band in new directions.
The brilliant ‘Actress/Model’ is a kind of clipped electro-indie dance tune whose cutting lyric epitomises the band’s brand of angry pop – melodic yet with added bite. ‘Do You Feel Insecure?’ is the most breakneck song they’ve recorded so far and doesn’t even stretch to 90 seconds!
And the midpaced ‘Late Show’, which I always thought was a good tune but a slightly odd choice of single, blossoms within the expanses of a long player.
Yet in amongst the madness there’s actually two slower tunes. ‘This House of Mine’ is built round a pretty, repeating keyboard motif yet clocks in at less than two minutes whilst ‘Electricity (Will Be The Death of Me)’ is an electro folk ballad which is no less affecting.
One of the key differences with the earlier records is that singer Graeme Anderson displays a level of exuberance in his vocals that he’s not always shown on record before, helping convey some of the excitement of the live shows. Meanwhile guitarist Michael Morrison is at the heart of (almost) all the good things on the record, and is just as vital to Book Group’s sound as, say, Rod Jones is to Idlewild’s.
If there’s one tiny, wee complaint then you won’t find the likes of ‘Victory Lap’ or ‘Here Is Too Near’ on here. I can’t help thinking that for posterity’s sake including a couple of their very best older tunes would have been a good move.
Yet I don’t want to suggest that any omissions reflect on the quality of what’s actually on the record because, listening to the album, it’s clear that the band’s faith in the new material is more than well founded.
Closing track ‘Christina Howieson Place’ boasts the refrain ‘Start it all again’. And that’s exactly what you’ll want to do once you’ve finished playing this exhilarating album. And again and again.
‘The Great Indoors’ is officially released on Friday 13th May.
Manic Pop Thrills and the Cool Cat Club bring the band and the new record to Dundee for a co-headline show with Adam Stafford at Beat Generator Live on Saturday 21st May. More info here.
Prior to the Dundee show, Book Group launch ‘The Great Indoors’ with shows at the Banshee Labyrinth in Edinburgh this Friday (6th May) and at the Hug and Pint in Glasgow on Thursday 12th May.
Book Group photo by Kat Gollack