A sense of place is a wondrous, nebulous thing; it’s very personal and can be tricky to evoke meaningfully. Findlay Napier’s homage to his own Glasgow (there must be a clue in the name…) succeeds in bringing alive a sense of the diverse aspects of the city. Snippets of on-location audio in between songs give a vivid impression of walking the streets, eavesdropping on other lives.
Our auditory tour bus sets off from the Necropolis, to a funereal toll of bells, where teen Satanists sweetly fail to summon up demons in ‘Young Goths In The Necropolis’. Hanging out a little while longer in the graveyard, we meet the patron saint of gravediggers in ‘St. Anthony’s Digging A Hole’. These songs, along with the simmering anger of ‘There’s More To Building Ships’ (a stunning song written for the Shake The Chains project, and happily reprised here), are all written by Napier, his solo songwriting characterised by a slight edge, a rumbling abrasive humour.
The songs co-written with the prolific Hewerdine feel somewhat more lyrical, but still have that tart bite of dark humour. The bleak, heartfelt ‘Wire Burners’, a tale of homeless scrap-metal collectors is warmed by a loping blues. A fuzzily nostalgic glow surrounds ‘The Locarno, Sauchiehall St 1928’, offsetting its bittersweet tale of dancehalls and disappointment. ‘The Blue Lagoon’ hints at old school crooners, whilst telling of “unrequited love in a Glasgow chip shop”. It must also be one of the most lushly ornamented songs on an otherwise leanly arranged album. Napier’s vocals and guitar are supplemented only by Hewerdine on guitar/piano and Donna Maciocia’s backing vocals.
Of the sensitively chosen covers, ‘Marchtown’ is a kind of psychogeographic timeslip, whilst the boisterous ‘Glasgow’ celebrates the serious “party town” in all its incarnations. This is continued in the deliberate and proud Scots dialect of ‘Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice’ sung in lusty homage to Hamish Imlach. By contrast, a Blue Nile song, ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ expresses a relaxed joyfulness, as does Michael Marra’s deliciously surreal ‘King Kong’s Visit To Glasgow’.
The gorgeous cover art deserves a mention, too. The bubblegum pink of images and typography, the ragamuffin kids and the red sandstone blocks sum up this album’s refusal to sentimentalise its subject, whilst allowing warmth, affection and humour to show through loud and clear.
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Artist website: www.findlaynapier.com
‘Young Goths In The Necropolis’ – live: