Close Lobsters – Post Neo Anti: Arte Povera in the Forest of Symbols
- David Pollock
- 5 March 2020
C86-era indie-pop heroes return with their third album more than three decades after its predecessor
The subscription-based model of indie label Last Night from Glasgow has so far been put to good use releasing music by some of Scotland's finest young bands. More recently, however, it's also become an outlet for artists with established histories behind them; last year Bis' fifth album Slight Disconnects arrived on the label, while Close Lobsters are a group with an even more far-reaching catalogue.
Founded in Paisley in 1985, the group were included on the NME's giveaway C86 cassette the year after, a compilation which gave rise to a scene of the same name – one centred upon the city of Glasgow, which was also represented by artists like Primal Scream and the Pastels. Close Lobsters' song on it, 'Firestation Towers', was their first release, and it gave way to two albums before the end of the decade, 1987's Foxheads Stalk This Land and 1989's Headache Rhetoric.
Despite their popularity with indie fans at the time, the Lobsters disappeared for two decades, until their old label Fire released a compilation in 2009 and a 2012 reunion gave way to sporadic gigging and releasing activity. This new third album comes more than three decades after its predecessor, and yet it feels as though it could have been released in two-year succession after it; this isn't a stodgily dated effort intended to resurrect past glories, but a fresh-sounding record which feels all the more timeless for its evocation of time and place.
'All Compasses Go Wild' breezes in on Stewart McFadyen's sturdy drumbeat and breezy, open guitar lines which bear much in common with Teenage Fanclub or the Wedding Present. This is perfect, chiming indie-pop music, and if the sense of experience in Andrew Burnett's vocal hints at the age of the group, then the cantering joyousness of 'Johnnie', 'Bird Free's spiralling, tambourine-assisted, La's-like melody, and the measured drama of 'Godless', so reminiscent of James, creates an effect which is forever young.
As lovely as it is to bask in the swirling keyboard lines and Mick Jaggeresque 'la-la-la-ing' of 'Let the Days Drift Away', however, any record which titles itself after the radical, anti-capitalist Italian art movement of the 1960s might hopefully live up to such ambitions. Towards the end of the record is where these themes emerge most specifically, with 'London Skies' painting a psycho-geographer's portrait of a radical musical London populated by the Clash and the Only Ones' Peter Perrett, and 'Wander Pt.1&2' reflecting upon current systems and future change in suitably epic style.
This is music to let sink in and live with, a time capsule from the period immediately before Brit-pop made a commercial bastard of reflective, heartfelt alternative pop from the UK.
Out now on Last Night from Glasgow.