Following my eye-catching review of their debut album, how could those strangely comprehensible Glaswegians Big Hogg fail to be noticed by the big boys down in That London? Quite easily in all probability, but in the real world these winsome Scots have signed away their souls and worse to The Man, aka Bad Elephant Music. To be serious for a mo’, it is fitting that a label that has no truck with genre pigeonholing should end up being called home by this merrily unclassifiable bunch of ace tunesmiths.
Gargoyles takes the many shreds of the tattered Big Hogg flag left fluttering breathlessly in the breeze from that first album and runs with them, developing them into a more cogent whole as a “Big Hogg sound” emerges, weaving together old school jazz rock, vaudeville, classic pop and r’n’b infused rock’n’roll, all mashed together with a carefree Cantabrian aplomb.
The seriously bereft PR info sheet gives no clue as to who writes these tunes, but whoever it is, on their own or in combination, they are capable of writing some serious earworms, one of many examples being the insidious motif in The Beast, a tune you will find yourself humming in the supermarket checkout queue, or during that interminable staff meeting on Monday morning, but hopefully not out loud or the boss will be giving you the eye. The album opens with the fuzzy warble of Solitary Way, a kind of XTC on barbiturates as it swings and sways languidly along, gently but persistently rocking the listener awake. Not your usual barnstorming album opener but one that eases the listener into Big Hogg World, a musical theme park of many varied delights.
A feature is the regular appearance of the brass section, which serves to lend the album a swing, and no little downtown bonhomie. The album mooches along in a pleasant laid back fashion, evoking a Canterbury vibe as it saunters on down the road. In fact one could well imagine Kevin Ayers sonorous tones singing the reflective lyrics of Star Of The Show.
Sophie Sexton gets to take the lead vocal on Drunk On A Boat, more dreamily woozy sighing into the bottom of a glass. This is turning out to be one of those lazy summer afternoon records, despite being released well within winter’s grip, where natural surroundings inevitably mean it tends to take on a more melancholy air.
Short instrumental interludes are scattered through the album, almost as an invitation to get up and go and recharge your glass, but closer inspection reveals that they are worth listening to on their own merits. The impishly accentuated Waiting For Luigi leads to the longest track on the record, and thankfully The Beast injects a much needed blast of energy as the beats increase and the party vibe takes hold, trombone dancing merrily. “Under my skin, The Beast grows and grows”, as tales of unbridled lust take hold of Sophie. Much joyful instrumentation and a fab guitar break take it to the bridge. The album has been leading up to this, and it settles down thereafter, resting back into its previously comfortable groove.
The bluesy swagger of the first album is toned down a touch in favour of more sophisticated songwriting, but it’s still here, Gold And Silver being a case in point. There is an easy confidence exuding from these zeros and ones, and Gargoyles shows a band that has quickly come into full bloom. Devil’s Egg closes proceedings, sort of, with a hypnotic wah-trip through deeper psychedelic surroundings than before, asking us “Don’t you want to see all the madness…all the badness?”, in which case “Open the egg”. This is a contrary note on which to end, at odds with the otherwise more warm-hearted vibe, and proof that Big Hogg continue to evolve. After the short glimpse of folksy whimsy that is Little Bear, one can safely say that whatever comes next will be well worth checking out.
01. Solitary Way (3:45)
02. Vegan Mother’s Day (2:53)
03. Augogo (2:39)
04. Laudation (1:35)
05. Star Of The Show (4:23)
06. Drunk On A Boat (4:27)
07. Waiting For Luigi (1:47)
08. The Beast (6:24)
09. Gold And Silver (3:50)
10. Mercy (0:27)
11. My Banana (3:32)
12. Devil’s Egg (4:40)
13. Little Bear (1:20)
Total Time – 40:55
Justin Lumsden – Guitar, Vocals and Bass (track 1)
Richard Merchant – Trumpet, Cornet & Tenor Horn
Ross McCrae – Trombone & Wurlitzer Electric Piano
Sophie Sexon – Flute & Vocals
Nick Gaughan – Drums, Percussion, Electric Piano, Bass, Synthesizers (track 4)
Tom Davis – Bass
Lavinia Blackwall – Vocals (tracks 3 & 12)
Sybren Renema – Saxophone (track 12)
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Date of Release: 31st March 2017