I first heard THE PURE GALLUS in 2014, on the Les Frites Petites : VOL .2 CD
Stuck on the tail end of this eclectic collection of Lothian based talent was a lyrically hard hitting story of a Sunday morning spent raking the bins of the family tenement home to find “some skins and a packet of Superkings”, whilst being watched by your “sweetheart” daughter. Like a cut scene from an Irvine Welsh short film, possibly not crude enough for the 18 certificate, Daddy’s Doing Drugs is reflective of the fringes of society we are spared the experiences of, or are infrequently exposed to.
Over the intervening years since discovering THE PURE GALLUS, I have kept an eye out for more releases from this self styled troubadour of our times. But it seemed that he who has been described as ” David Byrne, played by Harry Dean Stanton, directed by David Lynch – Lach/Antihoot” had apparently gone to ground. Then in 2016 he was spotted out in public at the launch of Adullboy’s Ganglion EP in the Purple Orange music venue, Bathgate. Once again, bookending the show with a sardonic performance of observational songs including the above mentioned track. I got a chance to talk with him after the show and he was hinting at something in the pipeline. Then he once again went under the radar. Seemingly silent and happy to be so. Until now.
A week ago I was approached by Adullboy in his offstage persona of my mate Robin and asked if I’d like to review the new album from THE PURE GALLUS. I didn’t even know there was an album in the offing. So here it is.
DID YE AYE? is a 12 song tome of observational writing. Eighties Heaven 17 influenced sounds, replacing the glitz and glam of The Luxury Gap with tenement block grime. THE PURE GALLUS has pulled back the curtains, and standing in the centre of the council estate house window, stared with acute interest, recording the events that unfolded. Or maybe he has a great imagination. With tunes crafted on a living room located synthesiser, influenced by eighties Blancmange and ABC, his vocal sound also owes much to this era leaning towards Glenn Gregory with a Scots accent, whilst SWIMMING POOL MAN could be a Hamish Hawk lyrical outing.
Don’t get me wrong, the influences are definitely there for the hearing, but this assemblage of tracks are all THE PURE GALLUS. Comedic and dark in equal amounts, DID YE AYE? asks questions of the listener and our society. Do you realise this is all happening? Do you understand that Brexit might not be the primary concern of the young couple sitting opposite you on the train or the stranger at the local swimming pool? It is escapism from the politics of Europe and allure of reality TV. Just don’t dive in expecting it to give you a warm fuzzy feeling. Unless of course, the murky underbelly of society as presented by Irvine Welsh is your thing.
Did Ye Aye? : The Pure Gallus, my interpretation song by song
Opener, Poor Old Edna, conveys the tragic outcome of a Halloween prank that results in the sad demise of a 99 year old. The perpetrator is unrepentant and proceeds to “commit impropriety”, before the subject of the song is escorted to her place in the clouds by the hand of Lady Di. Sonically reminiscent of Blancmange, both musically and vocally, this sets the standard for the album where the juxtaposition of happy tunes with the uncomfortable tales that are waiting to be told, awaits the listener.
Swimming Pool Man sees our entertainer transported into a local swimming pool where a frustrated “swinger” hangs around taking too long to dry his toes. “The baldy dude is in the nude”, “Kilmarnock’s only naturist” are examples of TPG’s comedic talent, but you can’t help but feel that under the surface, there’s something not quite right with this picture.
Pigeons With Nae Feet captures the exploits of two un-dateables, “She’s not braw and neither’s he”, on a day trip across Central Scotland. Memories of enjoying “a bottle of Mad-Dog” left behind as a daytrip to Portobello Beach results in shoes full of sand and tanned faces, whilst Golden Baby tells of a new mother who has stolen a baby from the hospital. Yip, he did go there aye!
Opening with a whistle stolen from the spaghetti westerns that would have entertained “Mrs McFall from down the hall” in her youth, and sung from the point of view of a fellow inmate, Nursing Home Aphrodite further demonstrates the comedic side of TPG’s writing. Its hard not to at least listen with a smile on your face. At the other end of life from the couple in Pigeons With Nae Feet, “She’s only 73, a vision in her Primark Nightie”, “look at you undressed and to be honest I’m impressed”, this track presents the listener with a vision of what might be heading our way in the future. Close your ears if you don’t want to see.
Daddy’s Doing Drugs has been reworked a bit from that which introduced me to The Pure Gallus. It feels brighter, but still packs a punch.
This album is loaded with stories of society’s waifs and strays and the second half of the album picks up where the first left off.
At 130BPM, Dave The Rave is the odd one out on the album. With nods towards Italian Piano House music and not the pop tunes that inform the rest of the tracks. The subject of the song gets his comeuppance when his reputation isn’t enough to save him from a beating at the hands of the local youths. Our storyteller has no sympathy though, but I’ll leave it for you to find out why.
Grease Moustache starts with a piano introduction and has a lighter feel but as it tackles domestic violence as witnessed by a lovelorn employer, it rapidly drags us into the sad world of the “baldy chip shop boss” observing the black eyes and battle scars on show under the neon lights, as a couple’s outward image hides the reality of the aforementioned brutality. Then, just as things are getting really heavy, the teller of this tale announces that he wants to “batter him like a single fish”. Black humour at it’s best.
At 2 mins and 38 secs Tracksuit Town is the shortest track on the album but succinctly captures the sweet smelling, wasted, Buckie fuelled evenings of youth, “queuing for bevy at the Spar” followed by the obligatory session down the woods. The local lothario, Bobo, has left his mark around town with scrawled dedications from his fleeting girlfriends on show around the local landmarks.
The Lords are a gang from out of town who have come down for a fight and “underneath the setting sun” “bottles rained down”. Jesus puts in an appearance to try to stop the meaningless violence but is subjected to a beating. This track is a mirror of Dave The Rave with an altogether different ending. There’s a hidden parable in here too as we analyse the modern youth’s relationship with religion.
Crisp Bag Tree takes the detritus and waste to be found around the “door of the flats” and paints pictures ranging from brightly coloured flowers on the subject of the song, to a “galaxy of chewing gum stars” beside the “sick in the shape of Scotland” on the pavement. Inside the flats the youthful past-times of romantic interludes and over indulgence are given the brutally honest treatment as the raconteur recalls a party, before the song is drawn to a close with the observation that you can’t go back.
Just in case you were enjoying all this mirth and frivolity too much, Shit Christmas slaps you around the chops with a tale of family failings at The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. An antidote to the sickly sweet Hallmark movies we are exposed to every December, TPG imbues this tale with his take on Christmas as a “C-Word” and family as an “F-Word”. Listening to this makes me squirm in my seat as I glance around the room at the thoroughly disgruntled faces who aren’t going to get a Christmas card next year.
Have fun listening and remember it’s all just entertainment. Isn’t it?
(ga·luss) Dialect, chiefly Scot ~adj.
- self-confident, daring, cheeky.
- stylish, impressive (esp. Glasgow “He’s pure gallus, by the way“).
- Orig. derogatory, meaning wild; a rascal; deserving to be hanged (from the gallows).
“Did ye aye?” is an extremely condescending phrase used to shut down the person you’re talking to if you think they’re speaking shite. Can be used to convey that you think someone’s telling lies, being a twat, being pretentious or simply to tell someone to fuck off. A very useful and versatile phrase.