Broken Chanter – Catastrophe Hits (Olive Grove/Last Night From Glasgow)
How do you follow up a successful, but reflective, debut? Well, if you’re David MacGregor then you bring out the big pop guns. And make no mistake the second Broken Chanter album ‘Catastrophe Hits’ has some very big guns indeed.
First off, for the first time, David has worked with Paul Savage on production duties. Paul has produced some of the best sounding Scottish records of the last 15-20 years and ‘Catastrophe Hits’ isn’t going to look out of place alongside the likes of Mogwai’s ‘Rave Tapes’, the Phantom Band’s ‘The Wants’ or Arab Strap’s ‘The Last Romance’.
Add in the performances of rhythm section Audrey Tait (drums) and Graeme Smillie (bass) and you have the key to a bold and confident record.
But a great sounding record is nothing without the songs. The album was introduced to the world via two up tempo melodic singles – ‘Extinction Event Souvenir T-shirt’ and the more recent ‘Dancing Skeletons’ which are undoubtedly powered by Audrey and Graeme.
Whilst EEST pours a lot of the world’s angst into its lyrics it also emerges with a refrain which implores you to ‘Hold onto your friends’. That positivity finds its counterpart in another of the big pop tunes ‘Allow Yourself’ (“Allow yourself to feel /be loved”).
But maybe best of the lot, ‘So Long (I’m Around)’ features one of David’s finest melodies and should be an early New Year pop smash in any reasonable universe.
Of course, it wouldn’t be one of David’s records if there wasn’t a more ruminative feel to some of the other songs.
‘Horse Island’ may lack the energy of the more lively songs but it’s every bit their equal in terms of hooks. Meanwhile ‘Ith Làn Do Bhìth’ continues the tradition of the debut in reserving the record’s prettiest tune for a song sung in Gaelic although this time around David feels confident enough to sing the lyrics himself.
Finally, ‘Rubha Àlainn’ is an optimistic instrumental that was first spotted in embryonic form on David’s second ambient lockdown EP from last year. But again the Tait/Smillie axis takes the song to a different level. I hope it makes it into the live set.
To sum up, ‘Catastrophe Hits’ manages to blend the spirit of early Kid Canaveral and the melodicism of ‘Now That You Are A Dancer’ with a sophistication borne of a decade’s worth of recording experience.
Without a doubt, it’s one of my favourite albums of the year. Make it one of yours too.
David MacGregor photo by Stephanie Gibson.
For more on the making of the record please read David’s honest and lengthy post here.