After much deliberation – and while eschewing the stylings and mindless attitudinising of the pop mainstream – the identical twin brothers from Auchtermuchty, The Proclaimers, have returned with fife and drum to further their own brand of Scottish folk-rock. Best known for their songs ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’, ‘Sunshine on Leith’, ‘I’m On My Way’ and ‘Letter from America’, the brothers have thankfully retained their songwriting chops, and sly grins, to deliver the new album ‘Angry Cyclist’.
Thirteen new songs showcase the brothers’ ability to craft two-and-a-half-minute slices of rock pop (often of a janglesome nature: ‘Sometimes It’s The Fools’) that hook and pin the listener to the radio. Charlie and Craig Reid are enamoured of lyrical expression, that is, what they can do within the strict confines of a pop song: with time and structure finite, words chosen are crammed and spun as carefully as a web.
With lungs as full and as open as ever on ‘Streets Of Edinburgh’, the Reids’ emotionally charged outlook is apparent as they locate themselves and their souls in a place and time. Further musical devolution (from London) comes with ‘Then It Comes To Me’, the rebellion melodic, the blue and white jacks aflutter, the homeland pride still discernible (the Reids are well-known supporters of Scottish independence and have, at various stages of their lives, been activists for the Scottish National Party).
It’s a full studio sound. And the unmistakable, sibilant vocal delivery in a rich brogue remains unchanged, as does the stomp and swelling strings. And the duelling pairs of spectacles. “I feel this era has been kissed/By the aura of an angry cyclist” comes a line, the wit and wisdom this time around more oblique, older and welcome. Acknowledging the current European political impasse, “Prejudice hasn’t gone/New energy drives it on” arrives deftly and without sloganeering.
The blues and considered poetics of ‘Stretch’ is, thankfully, of the pub’s backroom, where invective spat into the mic is of the undiluted kind, a giving of a brow not far away, lurking as physical punctuation behind each verse. The Pictish anger remains as the balladry, strings and Telecaster clash of ‘The Hours Between’ lead to the R&B pick-me-up of ‘Information’. The brothers’ voices entwine, become one, the record at its midpoint quite clearly the creation of a singular mind.
‘You Make Me Happy’ as a lighter shaded nod to ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ is one for the older fans of the twins, while ‘Looted’ is a song to sway to with a mug of Laphroaig clutched in your mitt as you remember what it wasn’t like to have Blair as your SW1-based overlord.
This record, therefore, comes as a timely dose of the Reids’ newer ideas, yet tempered with a mellowed, bitter cheer; lines like “The juices of the grain make life more intense” (‘The Ballad Of The Booze’) lend a not unobvious insight into how the siblings elevate and tickle their collective subconscious. This is a record made of flinty words, the Reids’ stock in trade. It was ever thus and it works very well indeed.
‘Angry Cyclist’ is out on 10 August on Cooking Vinyl