Friday, January 12, 2007

Hats off to the sound of teenage Scotland


YOU know you've made an impression when you've inspired a chant. The View have a chant, dating from one of their early gigs (way back in the mists of 2005 or thereabouts) in their native Dundee, when one enthused punter took up the mantra "The View, The View, The View are on fire!". You probably had to be there... but the chant stuck, becoming their website address, T shirt slogan - and something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Over the past six months, this scruffy bunch of Dundonian teenagers have generated a massive swell of interest with just a handful of modest indie singles. Where last year's Scottish success story, The Fratellis, emerged largely unheralded, The View have been making friends and picking up momentum at what could almost be considered a stately pace in these days of viral marketing, to arrive at the point where practically every tipster in the land is pushing them as "this year's Arctic Monkeys".

Well, The View may be on fire but they are by no means an Arctic Monkeys-style phenomenon. Anyone expecting a revelatory, instant classic of a debut album along the lines of Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not will likely be disappointed by Hats Off to the Buskers - whereas anyone who can get past the atrocious title can kick back in the company of a thoroughly enjoyable and, at times, genuinely impressive collection of bratty indie pop tunes.

It helps inordinately that Oasis/Verve producer Owen Morris has successfully captured this likeable band's youthful brio in an intensive two-week sprint of a recording session. Hats Off to the Buskers is charged, melodic, perceptive, impatient, disaffected, cathartic and completely unoriginal, but it is still a very good showcase for a young band at the outset of their career.

One minute of the garagey clatter of opening track Comin' Down and you know that The View have been paying attention in rock'n'roll heritage class. But we are not dealing with a bunch of bowl-cutted, cuban-heeled 1960s revivalists - The View steal from all over the shop.

Recent single Superstar Tradesman - a passionate riposte to being told to learn a trade or prepare for unemployment - chimes in on a guitar hook nicked almost wholesale from the first Strokes album, while their demented, shrieking live favourite, Skag Trendy, is a pithy character sketch with the feral stamp of early Libertines - a major touchstone for this band. The wayward tunefulness of Wasted Little DJs provides the initial standout moment, however, which is probably why it was released as their debut single.

These are the tracks to bounce around to, but The View have more to offer than just unbridled energy. New single Same Jeans dials down the pace a little. Kicking off with the straightforward admission that "I've had the same jeans on for four days now, I'm going to go to a disco in the middle of the town, everybody's dressing up, I'm dressing down...", it's an unexpectedly beguiling plea to the peacock scenesters to ditch the preening and keep it real, which reflects the lack of pretension in their entire approach to rock'n'roll.

This attitude would normally place The View in the same tiresome "people's band" category as Oasis, Kasabian, Stereophonics and all those other "campaign for real music" blokey bores, were it not for a poetic turn of phrase and nuanced performance that escapes most of those journeymen.

It's a worthy introduction to the band's more whimsical side. In addition to being handy with a punky assault, they have a facility for uncluttered, catchy tunes, best showcased on the acoustic strum Face for the Radio and the instantly infectious Streetlights. The latter is the most complete song on the album, reminiscent of textbook indie combo The La's in its combination of a chirpy musical tone with vulnerable sentiments - "I'd like to move city, I'd like to move town, cos all you ignorant people, you're bringing me down," they lament restlessly. Gran's For Tea, meanwhile, captures an ambivalence to changing horizons ("these people call me their friend, but they don't think the same as me"), like a more raucous take on Paolo Nutini's These Streets.

There are other encouraging facets to their sound, such as their gauche love song Claudia, but also a couple of unremarkable indie numbers, which could just have easily turned up on any old Razorlight or Kooks album. Overall, though, there is very little puppy fat in evidence. Signing off with Wasteland, a streamlined burst of bolshy reggaefied post-punk, The View sound justifiably cocksure. The closing pithy folk ditty Typical Time comes over as a mischievous adjunct, with a final line - "I've lived in shit forever, there's no treasure to be found" - which typifies their no-nonsense attitude, but is way too desolate an outlook for a band with a very hopeful future.

by FIONA SHEPHERD, The Scotsman 12/1/07


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