Friday, November 23, 2007

Album Review: The Royal We

Album Review: The Royal We -'The Royal We.' (Geographic)

The case for the prosecution

M'lud, for starters, this is an eight track mini-album. The singer of this six-piece Glasgow-based band, Jihae Simmons is actually from LA and according to no other document than her press release grew up with an idealised image of Glasgow, gleaned from the lyrics of Belle and Sebastian and Orange Juice. This is utterly idealistic; I taught on the south side of Glasgow for a year, and believe me, the kids were nothing like the cutesy, twee, anti-macho images those bands suggested. Lots of wonderful kids, and quite a few headbangers, but they were either wearing all black, or Adidas tracksuits. The band are clearly devastated that they formed too late to be on neither the C-86 tape nor the Rough Trade Indiepop 1 compilation. They are old-school indie, but old-school indie by numbers, and they split up on the day that this, their first album was released. This is too contrived to be true. They dress in a cutesy way that is just painful to behold.

The case for the defence

m'lud, I can't help thinking that m'learned friend has actually missed the point somewhat, here. Yes, it's an idealised image of Glasgow but one that I too had (until no less an authority than Stevie Jackson of the popular beat combo Belle & Sebastian pointed out to me that the stories on the back of their records were just that. Stories). And yes, there's bits of Belle and Sebastian there, but I also hear Sons and Daughters, The Raincoats and even Roxy Music. At eight songs, there is no filler, and the closing song, a cover of Chris Isaac's 'Wicked Game' works perfectly. And if they dress 'cutesy'...that's got to be an improvement on the adidas tracksuits that soiled indie in the nineties, isn't it?

Verdict: **** (acquitted and praised)

Exhibit A: The Royal We -'Three Is A Crowd.' mp3

Exbibit B: The Royal We -'I Hate Rock N Roll.' mp3

Exhibit C: The Royal We's MySpace

4 comments: said...

Glasgow. My home town. Grew up and got out. Full of short, psychotic, violent, aggressive, poorly but expensively dressed, pasty-faced religious bigots save for the postcode G12 where the fey Bell & Sebastian live, with all the students, nurses and aspiring middle-class incomers. Saw them doing missionary work a couple of years ago in a housing scheme/estate/project depending on whether you're Scottish, English or urban American. Couple of people were stabbed outside the Community Centre that night for nothing. One died. Just another Saturday. Wonder if the Belles and their fans at the bus stop ever found out? Jihae Simmons should be well at home.

Ed said...

Gulp. There are these sides to all cities, I guess. Tourists don't usually see the poorer bits of the cities, though I have heard about people doing taxi rides around some of the really troubled parts of Belfast. (Personally, I think this runs the risk of being patronising, rather than authentic).

Thinking of Belle and Sebastian reminds me of the lyric in 'This Is Just a Modern Rock Song' about the 'girl who went up to the Easterhouse because she liked the sound of it.' It was only when I moved to Scotland six years ago that I understood why it was a joke.

I've got a lot of time for Glasgow, even if I live in Edinburgh. The religious bigotry did take me by surprise. I'd been teaching there for three weeks when one student - aged eleven- asked me if my surname was protestant or catholic. As someone who grew up in North London, it was one of the most bizarre questions I've ever been asked. said...

Ed, I've no idea of your religious persuasion and it doesn't matter if you have one or not, but in Glasgow, 'Edward' is a 'Catholic' name more often than not. It's all about history and it doesn't really matter now, but it's real for them, there. I'm just surprised that you wereen't ready fro it given the high percentage of Irish-derived people in North London! I live in Edinburgh too, and I still have a lot of time for my home town, in smaller doses, less and less often.
On a brighter note, I heard on the radio thsi morning about a new arts festival around the Cathedral in Glasgow, which is good. Just don't mention football!

Ed said...

There are a lot of Irish people in North London, true, but I left when I was about thirteen, and church schools in England are not always automatically catholic. I hadn't realised Edward (not actually what my name is short for -but!) shortened to Ed, I guess people could make assumptions.

As for football, it's a very loaded question in Glasgow, and to a lesser extent in Fife where I teach. I've never really supported a football team, but if asked I say Partick.

Life is too short, but when you teach RE you can't avoid it sometimes. It's funny; I never thought it was possible to be a catholic or protestant atheist -then I moved here!