Roddy Woomble’s distinctive vocal is like a (too) comfy old blanket as the Scottish indie stalwarts, with guitarist Rod Jones also engineering, get dreamy on this, their seventh full-length LP.
And with that, on opener Dream Variations, we’re offered a sage insight into a band now firmly viewed as elder statesmen of Scottish music: “The old man follows the sun, deeper in the depths of living”. The last minute of the song slows the tempo as we’re asked if there is a cruelty in the act of dreaming. The ethereal is a common motif throughout the record though one which, like dreams themselves, never fully materialises into something tangible.
On the upbeat All These Words, echoes of the glory days of The Remote Part are heard, as Woomble reflects, “Even if you’re not here, you’re here / love in absence with clarity.” It’s the heart-on-sleeve kind of stuff that helped them go massive for a wee while in 2002.
The most heartfelt lyrics however, can’t cover for some truly turgid paint-by-numbers indie rock as witnessed on You Wear It Secondhand and the bland Smiths-a-long Forever New.
It’s when the band turns the clock back to their early crashing rock sensibilities that things – albeit briefly – pick up. Same Things Twice, even with a cornball line like “I rented my room above Hell just to get the details ahead of time,” is a cracking tune made for a drunk night in the Barras.
I Almost Didn’t Notice finds a hypnotic beat, rhythmically reminiscent of War on Drugs, but minus the energy. It’s a pleasant enough song that with a bit extra passion could have gone to another level instead of grasping for, and missing, the target.
It’s frustrating because Woomble is undoubtedly a talented lyricist, still possessing at times a sharp wit. The music is unfortunately just a bit “meh”. At times, they’re like a Best of British tribute band (God, there’s even mellotron) while elsewhere they hopelessly aim at the REM territory they inhabited 15 years ago.
It feels like they know it too. Woomble sardonically pleads on Forever New, “All I ask you to do is applaud enthusiastically.”
Sentimental closer Lake Martinez attempts to tug at the heartstrings with a lilting piano and atmospheric noises in the mix, only helping the record close on a whimper. Even Coldplay can do this stuff with a bit more joie-de-vivre.
It says a lot about our modern society that an album clocking in at 50+ minutes feels a tad indulgent. Albums, unless utterly brilliant, do not have the addictive power of the latest Netflix bingefest and Idlewild don’t even come close here. Interview Music is a fitting enough title. You could quite easily conduct an interview with this music in the background, without fear of the conversation ever being disturbed.