The Scotch Of Saint James

The Scotch Of Saint James - Photo by Matt JelonekYaYa’s Northbridge
Friday, August 30, 2013

The evening marked the launch of Real People Fucking, the second album from The Scotch Of Saint James. The title and cover alludes to humanity, primal and unvarnished. The night’s earliest instance of such human drama preceded a note being played, when a patron was mysteriously arrested mid-drink order. As the police escorted him out, a friend stayed to remonstrate with the bar staff, as if accusing the good people of YaYa’s of orchestrating an elaborate sting. I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Our openers were Catbrush, a messy power trio, all skittish energy, grungy twang and muted PJ Harvey sexuality. Their real trump card is front woman Ellen’s voice, shifting gears from cool-kid drawl to pained howl to coquettish flirt with the bat of eye.  They may well have peaked with the closing Frangipani – starting with a chirpy back and forth about a rejected peace offering between Ellen and sparkle-eyed drummer Annetta before exploding into a Vaselines-style stomper and eventually dissolving into joyous disarray. The opening tete-a-tete turned their biggest weakness, their tendency to insularity – which occasionally gives the impression they’d be happiest if the stage was arranged so that they could face one another rather than the audience – into a virtue, revealing the jumpy chemistry at their core.

Pat Chow followed. One note, they certainly ain’t – the set ran a gauntlet from the slow-burn intensity of Pleasure Unit to the sunny guitar band melodicism of Push On. They have a hell of an ear, this band, the ability to spin a chorus you’ll be singing along with the second time you hear it, a skill best evidenced by the stop-start ‘50s girl group bounce of School Kids. Lead singer Ben’s shambling, dissolute banter between songs (veering from a declaration of ‘Fuckin’ YOLO’ to simply ‘Awww Christ’) almost seemed designed to undermine the direct sincerity of their work. If that was the intention, it is to their great credit that it so resolutely failed.

Onto our headliners. One might accuse The Scotch Of Saint James of drawing from a limited sonic palette, but when the result is as fun, assured and fully realised as this, it’s hardly a cause for complaint. Their driving, airtight rock is full of subtle and playful time shifts (a delayed kick drum here, a winningly counter intuitive bass rhythm there) and speaks of a deep and abiding love of what two guitars, a bass and a drum kit can do. Songs like Progress, San Francisco Rash and Passenger all recall Britpop’s moddish, upright cool, but also Britpop’s unashamed reverence for the grabby hook, for the big sexy chord change. By the time Nosebag’s lusty riff spat forth from the stage (think Helter Skelter as covered by Iggy and the Stooges), replete with band wide yelps of ‘Hey-hey!’, the bands infectious swagger had pervaded the crowd that filled YaYa’s dance floor. Real people fucking. Authenticity and sex. Surveying the evening’s line up, one would conclude that that was just about right.