Doug Johnstone

376 articles

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Chris Longmuir - Dead Wood

10 Aug 20092 stars

This debut Scottish crime novel deals with some hard-hitting subject matter – serial killing, prostitution, drugs, organised crime – which makes its lacklustre nature all the more frustrating. Set in Dundee, we follow single mum and part-time hooker…

Singles and Downloads

6 Aug 2009

Much touted at the start of the year, Little Boots’ takeover of planet pop hasn’t quite materialised, and ‘Remedy’ (679) won’t change that. A decent enough pop strut with obligatory chunky synths and singalong chorus, it lacks the personality of her…

5 reasons to go see: The Telescopes

6 Aug 2009

1. It’s a trip down memory lane. Formed in 1987 by frontman Stephen Lawrie, these wall-of-sound shoegazing-cum-baggy space-rock pioneers are the forgotten sons of 1990s indie. But forgotten no more! Cos they’re playing this gig, likes. 2. You get…

Singles and downloads

29 Jul 2009

Virtually no one releases good singles in August. The charts are full of summer pap while decent acts are up to their knees in festival mud. So hello, Dolores ‘The Cranberries’ O’Riordan, whose ‘The Journey’ (Cooking Vinyl) is utterly anaemic, dreary…

5 reasons to go and see: Tartan Heart Festival - Belladrum 2009

29 Jul 2009

1: The best new music in Scotland. Now in its sixth year, this perfectly formed Highland shindig outside Inverness has always been a champion of new Scottish music. This year is no exception, with The Phantom Band, Dananananakroyd, Unicorn Kid, St…

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Cornershop - Judy Sucks a Lemon For Breakfast

23 Jul 20092 stars

It’s been seven years since Cornershop’s last outing, and they’ve clearly spent that time being happy, but not necessarily getting inspired. Judy Sucks a Lemon … is upbeat, sunny, summery fare, but almost pathologically derivative of 60s rock, pop, soul…

Joyriders - Others Caught on But They Never Caught Up

23 Jul 20094 stars

They coulda been contenders. At the start of the 90s, Edinburgh noiseniks Joyriders were contemporaries and friends of The Lemonheads and Nirvana, yet somehow conspired not to make it big. This Japanese released retrospective collection shows what the…

Gareth Sager - Slack Slack Music

23 Jul 20093 stars

This is aptly named, because this debut solo album from a founder member of post-punk legends The Pop Group is an unhinged, ramshackle affair, with scattershot tactics producing moments of grin-inducing wonder and cringeworthy dreadfulness in equal…

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers

23 Jul 20091 star

Imagine Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons fronting vintage Talking Heads. It might just work, right? Wrong, at least in the hands of Kendal kids Wild Beasts, it is. Maybe it’s all in the execution, which is at best seriously underwhelming and…

Nii Ayikwei Parkes' 'Tail of the Blue Bird'

13 Jul 2009

British-born Ghanian poet on his novelistic debut

The jump from performance poet to novelist is not necessarily easy or obvious, but Nii Ayikwei Parkes pulls it off with aplomb. The British-born, Ghana-raised writer is now based in Manchester, where he’s made a name for himself as a live performer of…

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Scottish Books - Irvine Welsh, Alan Bissett and Ewan Morrison

9 Jul 2009

Irvine Welsh inspired a generation of young Scottish writers and showed there was literature to be found in the lives of the Scottish underdog. Two of the leading lights of that next generation are Alan Bissett and Ewan Morrison. Both authors boast…

Wilco: Wilco (The Album)

9 Jul 20093 stars

Reputation can be a curse. With 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born two years later, Wilco re-wrote the book on what rock bands could do, blending brilliant musical experimentation with note-perfect rootsy folk-rock and searingly troubled…

Chika Unigwe: On Black Sisters’ Street

9 Jul 20093 stars

The depiction of modern prostitution is often one-dimensional, something this skilled new writer is seeking to address. Chika Unigwe is Nigerian-born but now lives in Belgium, the setting for this evocative and heartfelt novel. Four African women share…

Glen David Gold interview - Post haste

25 Jun 2009

Glen David Gold is not a writer who likes to be hurried. The American author’s debut novel, Carter Beats the Devil, was a big commercial and critical success upon its publication in 2001. A fictionalised account of real-life American magician Charles…

Michael Franti

25 Jun 2009

Political songwriters can fall into the trap of being preachy, but not Michael Franti. In a career spanning over 20 years, the former frontman of The Beatnigs, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and latterly Spearhead, has always struck the right balance…

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Malcolm Middleton - Waxing Gibbous

25 Jun 20093 stars

The former Arab Strapper has had some wonderful moments in his seven year solo career, but this fifth album has a faint whiff of treading water about it. The wry, bittersweet lyrical observations are still present in the likes of ‘Don’t Want to Sleep…

5 Reasons To Go See - Emiliana Torrini

11 Jun 2009

1 She’s hot and cold Thirty-two-year-old chanteuse Emiliana Torrini is half-Italian, half-Icelandic (her full name is Emiliana Torrini Davidsdottir), so you get the fiery passion of the Mediterranean and the icy cool of the Arctic rolled into one. 2…

YolanDa Brown

11 Jun 2009

SOUL JAZZ Twenty-six-year-old London-born saxophonist YolanDa Brown is already remarkably successful, winning a MOBO award last year and collaborating with Alexander O’Neil, Mica Paris and The Temptations, all on the back of just two self-released…

Broken Records: Until the Earth Begins to Part

28 May 20094 stars

Positively brimming with ambition, confidence and diverse songsmithery, this debut album from the Edinburgh seven-piece folk rock outfit sees them leaving behind early comparisons to Arcade Fire and growing into their own skins beautifully. Opener…

Broken Records

28 May 2009

Glasgow has long been the focus in Scotland for all things indie, with Edinburgh a very poor second when it comes to generating quality bands, but there are signs that’s changing. You wouldn’t quite say the capital has caught up yet, but with more…

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5 Reasons to go see: We Were Promised Jetpacks

28 May 2009

1. Great band name Often overlooked as an essential requirement for a great band is the need for a cracking band name. We Were Promised Jetpacks has just the right amount of off-kilter comedy and poignancy to get across their bittersweet, scintillating…

Helen Fitzgerald: My Last Confession

28 May 20094 stars

Glasgow-based Aussie writer Helen Fitzgerald likes to walk a high-wire in her fiction, balancing between the two disparate genres of intelligent chick-lit and dark, violent noir crime writing. In lesser hands it could be a mess, but Fitzgerald always…

Little Boots: Hands

28 May 20092 stars

Much touted at the turn of the year, Little Boots has rather had her electro-pop fembot pixie thunder stolen by Lady Gaga, and this debut album doesn’t do anything to turn that around. Suitably retro of feel, with shadows of Yazoo, New Order and the…

Margaret Elphinstone: The Gathering Night

14 May 2009

Margaret Elphinstone has carved out a fine career as a purveyor of excellent historical novels, but for her latest offering she’s done something a bit different and gone prehistoric. The Gathering Night is set in Mesolithic Scotland, somewhere between…

Manchester Orchestra: Mean Everything to Nothing

14 May 20094 stars

They’re not from Manchester and they’re not an orchestra. Instead this young indie five-piece from Atlanta tap into the blue-collar rock ethic that’s spawned the likes of The Hold Steady and Kings of Leon, while also displaying plenty weirdness to keep…