It's nice to give publicity to deserving musicians from far-flung shores but, I have to admit, it's even more satisfying to be able to give a little boost up the ladder of success to a young band from our own little corner of the world. The Felt Tips are an indie-pop four-piece, composed of three Scots; Andrew, Neil and Kevin, bolstered by the chiming Marr-like guitar skills of Miguel from Almeria in southern Spain. Despite this exotic influence, the band's songs slot seamlessly into the Scottish indie-pop canon; lying somewhere between the literate pop sound of Belle and Sebastian and the plaintive kitchen-sink drama of The Just Joans. Sound like your kind of thing? Well, the good news is that the band's eagerly awaited, Scottish Arts Council funded, debut album 'Living and Growing' is released on Plastilina Records on the 15th of this month.
Playing the album is a bit like picking up a book of short stories as, even at a first listen, it's obvious that The Felt Tips are very much one of those bands for whom the lyrics matter and it's soon apparent that Andrew, the vocalist, is not so much singing as engaged in story-telling. And it's story-telling with a bold and sometimes brutal honesty. It's this aspect of The Felt Tips that makes comparison to The Just Joans most relevant, but where the Joans have an undeniable west of Scotland, working-class grittiness, The Felt Tips have an unashamedly more genteel, north eastern, middle-class take on life. This is apparent from track 1 'A life More Ordinary' with its guilty, petit bourgeois refrain of "This is the curse of having no cause to complain". Track 2 'Boyfriend Devoted' is another little, self-contained story and, surely uniquely in the annals of pop lyricism, recounts the point-of-view tale of a girl with an overly pious boyfriend all set to a solid-gold, jangle-pop acompaniment.
And the album just continues right on in this vein. There's 'Bought and Sold', telling the story of an exile in London with it's loping indiepop bass interweaving with some tremendous shimmering guitar work. There's the uptempo 'Engaged for A Visa', with it's contemporary tale of the the suspicions faced by young love complicated by UK rights of residency issues. There's; 'Garden of Roses' with its pantheistic view of life and death, the graphic 'Lifeskills', which is the most Just Joans-like, with it's frank tale of teenage oral sex performed in the public park, 'Silver Spoon' about a privileged young man left quadraplegic following an accident, 'Not Tonight', a bouncy and breezy indiepop song chock-full of sly humour, about not losing your virginity.
I've deliberately kept the best (in my opinion) two songs till last. Undoubtedly, the song that will provoke more music press column inches and music-blog purple prose than any other is 'Dear Morrissey'. This takes the form of an open-letter to their (and our) erstwhile idol SPM. The song engages not only with their own sense of drifting away from their former teen hero, viz "less need to find solace in you" but also finds time to address the recurring accusations of racism that have dogged the great man's career. There's lyrical ambition for you!
The Felt Tips - Dear Morrissey by eardrums
The album ends with the gentle and elegant bitter-sweet love ballad 'Double Bluff'. It's this song that Ray has chosen to give The Streetlamp video treatment to, providing us with a charming, lo-fi, Harryhausenesque stop-motion classic (below).
Hope you liked that. Now find out if the band are gigging near you by checking here or here, and remember, 'Living and Growing' will be available in the shops from November 15. Until then, here's a little bonus; track 5 'Garden of Roses' can be downloaded for free here. Enjoy!