Artist: The Amazing Snakeheads
Record Label: Domino
“When I sing, I sound like where I’m from”. Never has there been a truer statement; these are the words straight from Dale Barclay, the talisman and mouthpiece of The Amazing Snakeheads. They’re from Glasgow and don’t we know it?! This is a city that has the lowest life expectancy in the UK, this is a city renowned for being grey, uncompromising and vicious as hell. When Barclay howls and contorts his menacing brogue throughout his band’s debut LP, ‘Amphetamine Blues’, it’s unmistakably Scottish – you’ll never get Barclay and Jack Johnson confused.
‘Amphetamine Blues’ scrawls the bleak projections of Glaswegian life across your cranium – you can make out the stark tenement buildings, a charcoal grey sky and the overwhelming feeling of bleakness. Barclay is the spotlight holder, with his ferocious scowl leaping forth as if the devil himself were a Scot. The trio’s first album sonically is a sparse affair, brittle boned drums and tense basslines form an ominous rhythm section whilst Barclay’s very own fretwork violently shatters like glass or screeches with a malfunctioning siren-esque malevolence. There’s a tension to ‘Amphetamine Blues’ which invokes the notions of unrelenting austerity – it’s no surprise, the current economic climate is dire, wars are breaking out left, right and centre and socially we’re more frayed than we’ve ever been – this is the world of The Amazing Snakeheads.
Minimalism is the trio’s secret weapon, invoking Joy Division’s use of silence, ‘Amphetamine Blues’ sometimes pauses for an awkward period of time thus increasing the levels of pressure and an eerie desolation . Lyrically, the Scotsmen’s debut is hardly rainbows and light either, ‘Flatlining’ has Barclay coarsely proclaiming “No more lies/no more love/no more hate/no more hope”. ‘Heading for Heartbreak’ has you reaching for the liquor bottle and shotgun with its swooning, macabre lament. “I always knew with you/I was heading for heartbreak”. This is a song with such languid momentum, TAS appear to have given into apathy and hopelessness albeit for the infrequent burst of tangled 50’s garage rock. By the time ‘Tiger By The Tail’s Spanish guitar slowly nails the coffin door shut – you’ll wonder how The Scottish troop managed to get out of bed to record the album in the first place.
Desolate and unforgiving, ‘Amphetamine Blues’ is an album that is noir to the core. The Amazing Snakeheads may have an exuberant band moniker but their aural personalities are austere to point of solemnly declaring “we’re all fucked”.
Word and Thoughts of Adam Williams