If Glasvegas guitarist Rab Allan seems hazy on the specifics of the past year, it’s with good reason. Between recording the group’s shoegazing doo-wop debut, Glasvegas, and the Christmas disc A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss), as well as maintaining a relentless touring schedule, the Scottish rocker hasn’t rested in months. Caught on the phone in London moments before recording a BBC radio session, he can’t pinpoint his highlights of 2008, but knows he’s experienced a monumental year.
“It’s been quite hard to look back and think about certain things,” he tells the Straight. “So many things have happened. I guess it’s the year that changed all of our lives in a great way.”
Formed by Allan and his cousin, vocalist James Allan, in 2003, Glasvegas went relatively unnoticed until the release of its “Daddy’s Gone” single four years later. A bittersweet ballad about deadbeat dads, the breakthrough tune paired a gargantuan wall of guitar noise with James’s thick Scottish croon. While the single gained rave reviews in British magazines like NME, it wasn’t until signing with major label Columbia Records last winter that the quartet—rounded out by drummer Caroline McKay and bassist Paul Donoghue—escaped working-class Glasgow.
“You ever seen Rocky?” Rab Allan asks. “You know how he worked in the meat-packing place? I was the exact same as that.”
Saying goodbye to the daily grind, the foursome took off for New York City to record Glasvegas’s self-titled debut.
“Spending two months in a different country is just bizarre,” Allan says of the experience. “There are days where you wake up and it’s so exciting because you have a million things to do, but some days you want to go home because you miss your family.”
Fittingly, Glasvegas’s opener “Flowers & Football Tops” tugs at the heartstrings by calling out for lost loved ones. The act’s sweetly sung sock-hop harmonies deliver some crushing blows (“My baby is six feet under”) before seguing into a beautifully cacophonous rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” which is led by a symphony of distortion-saturated guitars.
“Go Square Go”, meanwhile, is a knuckle-dusting rager that beefs up Glasvegas’s otherwise sad-sack image. Thundering into a dream-punk assault of manic sleigh bells and weighty power chords, the tune finds James pumping himself up for a pub brawl with bellowed lines like “If I don’t fight, I can’t go home tonight/Here we fucking go”.
Though the album’s 10 tracks vary in tempo and topic, all of the quartet’s material revels in simplicity. Glasvegas rarely busts out guitar solos or complex counter-harmonies, a fact that Allan credits to the group’s novice musicianship.
“None of us are great at our instrument, but we can get by,” he humbly notes.
With Glasvegas pumping out the most exciting Scottish rock since ’80s indie legends the Jesus and Mary Chain, Allan is perfectly content to avoid guitar-god territory.
“None of us have aspirations to play like Jimi Hendrix,” he says. “We are totally happy with what we are capable of. That’s what got us to this point.”
Glasvegas play Richard’s on Richards on Sunday (January 11).