The No Smoke CD
No Smoke was a limited run CD, featuring exclusive acoustic tracks from three of the Smoke bands, all recorded on the same day. The original idea was to give away copies at the three Smoke launch gigs, as a companion piece to Smoke. However, the promised funding fell through, and the CDs were sold instead. No Smoke was released on Monday 3rd September 2001.
No Smoke track listing:
This limited edition EP is an offshoot of the Smoke LP (read our review) which sees three of the bands putting away their electrical gubbins to perform an acoustic track each. My Legendary Girlfriend open with a song which is amongst their best recorded output to date - its laid-back pace and relaxed vocals showing a new side to their sound, and a one to which they are well-suited. Squander Pilots give us another solid pop song - this time without the brilliant trick of boy and girl stealing lines from one another - but the strong and confident female vocal is more than enough to carry this by itself. Kasino close the EP with a better track than the one they included on Smoke itself, but which still stumbles into the same pitfalls. They are promising songwriters, but tend to overproduce to the extent that it is all left sounding too clean and clinical.
Cunning re-promotion of the Smoke compilation from last month, 3 bands from the album, doing acoustic stuff. And rather well too - MLG's ear for a hook shines through, the usual more electronic feel replaced by meandering piano, while Kasino, adept at the drum-less thing at the best of times, strip things down further and hint at their new direction of sparser material. But it's Squander Pilots who are the surprise since their usual menu of triphoppy ambience translates really well, the feel of Dido or Pauline Murray coming through strongly.
Smoke, if you recall, was a compilation of songs from upcoming scottish bands. It's had mixed reviews, from high to low, good to bad. Not surprising if you are handed a CD with 19 bands, each with their very own individual style.
However, the limited edition EP, No Smoke features only three artists: My Legendary Girlfriend, Squander Pilots and Kasino. Originally planned as a companion for the original Smoke album, the CD production was delayed but now it's here, and featuring accoustic(ish) versions of songs by each of the bands.
My Legendary Girlfriend set the ball rolling with No Us In U.S., an extremely catchy little ditty which is sure to have you singing along at the chorus. The band (Paul McGazz, Lisa Harkins, Chris Elkin, Jenny Wan and Enzo Menoni) have a habit of writing quirky little songs and No Us... is no exception. All about the Americanisation of British society, depending on how you take it can either be complimentary or derogatory. The line dancers of the world will no doubt take the complimentary view.
Showing that they have a soulful side to them underneath the electronics, Squander Pilots introduce themselves politely with Pedestrian. This is a song to raise the hairs on the back of your neck with ease. The laid back jazz sound of Pedestrian allows singer Donna to overlay beautiful harmonies over a thoughtful accompaniment.
Kasino were at one time big rockers; loud and rocking. Things have changed over the years, and with Shine Like The Stars they prove that they still rock, only this time a hell of a lot quieter. This allows the falsetto vocals to become more folk than rock. Be sure to have plenty of butane gas handy through, as there are five minutes of lighter waving to be had on this song.
To compare this CD to Smoke would be an injustice. By the nature of the album, the musical styles were so different that it was only coherent in the sense that all the bands were scottish. A good album nevertheless, No Smoke takes musical coherency one step further, and one which is an essential purchase if only to hear these three bands perform in a more intimate manner.
In July was Smoke the massive compilation of Scottish talent. Now here is No Smoke, an E.P. consisting of acoustic tracks by three of the original Smoke bands. First up is a very melodic ditty by My Legendary Girlfriend entitled No us in US, acoustic guitar and piano with soft vocal harmonies with the inimitable MLG off beat lyrics, this time about how America influences our culture.
Then we have the broody Squander Pilots with the reworking of their old song, Pedestrian, again with acoustic guitar, piano and wonderfully layered vocals by Donna.
Last but definitely not least are Kasino with a lovely swirly feel to their track entitled Shine Like Stars with with the two Marshalls Travis style vocals perfectly layered between acoustic and beautifully ring modulated organ.
Originally intended as a give-away promotional disc (until the funding fell through and they decided to sell it), No Smoke is a three song sampler of bands appearing on the nineteen song Scottish Smoke compilation. Whereas daddy Smoke features a wide range of new and diverse-sounding Scottish bands, the three tunes here are all acoustic, and in fact were all recorded on the same day. Happily, the overt similarities end there.
My Legendary Girlfriend's "No US in U.S.", my hands-down favorite of the three, is built around the corny titular pun, but is in fact a clever and comic satire of Yankee tendencies. The group mocks American materialism with lines like "British cars are way too slow / I want a Cadillac / and I want to be American," and a sample of an obnoxious American ranting about his stock portfolio. There's also a verse that mocks the grunge scene -- it's certainly a few years late, but funny nonetheless. In addition to a refreshingly goofball lyrical sensibility, the song has well-constructed melodies and begs to be sung along to. If in fact they were Americans, the group would probably be compared to Ben Folds Five for both sonic style and smart-ass lyrical content.
Squander Pilots' "Pedestrian" returns to serious Brit-rock moping, with lots of minor key guitar strumming and male/female vocalists swapping lines about woe. The band reminds me a little of the unplugged incarnation of a big, seventies-style rock band, and the melody sounds as if it was copped directly from Wham!'s "Careless Whisper". Seriously.
The final song, Kasino's "Shine", calls to mind U2 or Radiohead in their quieter acoustic moments, but is most reminiscent of the gentle rock for which REM and their followers are known. The falsetto vocals are a bit grating and the repetitive guitar line could use more variation, but the song is a well-crafted example of rock's delicate side.
I don't know how many pounds those crazy Scots are asking for these twelve minutes of music, but it's probably not worth it. You'd be better off getting the nineteen song original, to get a full taste of the variety of the current state of Scottish music, instead of this three-song appetizer.
A bit of an older release (my fault) but as this cd-single features 3 unsigned bands who so far aren't still discovered by the big public, worthy enough to get reviewed! As said 3 unsigned bands and apart from the dark powerpop from Kasino, the other two bands are known here at The Original Sin! Squander Pilots make the sort of indiemusic that's been missing too much these days and My Legendary Girlfriend are making the music Jarvis Cocker should be making these days if he could forget all the art stuff and no I'm not saying this cos the band have the name of that famous Pulp song, besides one of their earlier 7-inches were compared by me with Heaven 17...it's cynical indiepop and the title of the song "No Us In U.S." says enough.