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A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Scribble Mural Comic Journal

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Artist: A Sunny Day In Glasgow

Album: Scribble Mural Comic Journal

Label: Notenuf

Review date: Jun. 27, 2007

Shoegaze is a genre that seems to have spawned from the bedroom: A small confining space representing isolation, retreat and comfort. More than any other movement in rock, it celebrates the existential crisis through a disorienting use of the electric guitar. Monolithic waves of distortion are employed as a Bell Jar cloak, wrapping the pop-based melodies in warm sheets of sound. This is music for people who take comfort in their sorrow and find catharsis in the aural celebration of mental angst. Though the sound of shoegaze has always been claustrophobic, its albums have not traditionally been recorded in domestic or unrefined spaces. Loveless, Psychocandy and Treasure were all produced in proper studios by bands that had spent years honing their skills as live rock acts. It would seem only natural then, that some young Shieldsian disciple would one day decide to make a blissed-out pop album in his bedroom — successfully returning the genre to the nascent confines from which it was begotten.

A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s Scribble Mural Comic Journal is and isn’t that record. Aesthetically, the band meets and exceeds all that one would deem possible for a humble home recording, but the songs themselves are so oblique that they lack the teeth needed to cling to the listener’s consciousness. If this were an ambient album, the compositions wouldn’t need that sort of consistent pull, but Scribble is very much a pop record and it’s missing the memorable songs that Kevin Shields and the Reid brothers were so adept at creating.

“Wake Up Pretty” kicks off the album with entrancing austerity. The constant pulse of a tom-tom anchors the buried vocal melody in a swell of guitar and synthesizer. It is a melancholy opener that doubles as a microcosm for Scribble’s successes in texture and feel. Ben Daniels, the band’s founder and creative force, establishes a personal production language that is both intimate and idiosyncratic. A cloudy narrative thread connects each song, but homogeneity is hardly Daniels' aim and the individual tracks radiate with unique instrumental selections and precisely placed samples.

“The Horn Song” and “5: 15 Train” stand as Scribble’s greatest achievements, seamlessly combining the band’s melodic abilities with tasteful abstraction. Both tracks eschew the traditional guitar-based shoegaze attack in favor of a more meticulous architecture. His production wizardry is endlessly inventive, but sometimes overly obtrusive. Songs like “C'mon” and “Lists, Plans” suffer from excessive knob twiddling and aggravating atonality.

The general construction of Scribble Mural Comic Journal leads one to believe that it’s a grower — requiring repeat listens in order to glean its full musical effect — but this isn’t entirely true. As the record is played over and over again, its flaws and lack of engaging songs become more apparent. Once interesting production choices, like the wah-wah guitar on “Lists, Plans,” do not hold up particularly well and the lesser songs reveal themselves rather suddenly.

Overall, A Sunny Day In Glasgow seem to be learning the ropes of full-length album production. If Scribble reveals anything, it’s the band’s overwhelming creativity and willingness to experiment. They channel that bedroom loneliness with a knowledge of shoegaze that goes far beyond simple homage and imitation. In the future, Daniels will learn to control his superfluous impulses and sharpen his songwriting. If the guys stick with it, they have the potential to deliver that next homespun Treasure.

By Matthew Kivel

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