It’s always nice when an old friend , someone you haven’t seen for a while, turns up and reminds you of why you’re friends in the first place. And so it is with Lothian’s Dropkick who have handed in Homeward after a two year absence. Proudly flagging a quote from The Scotsman that proclaims them Scotland’s third best band (sadly a search didn’t come up with the winner and runner up) the Taylor brother’s band are back to a five piece with Ian Grier still on keyboards and Scott Tobin( bass) and Mike Foy (drums) coming on board for what is their 12th album, perhaps giving them first place in Scotland’s most prolific band lists. While the band have released albums on Spanish and Swedish labels over the past few years they return here to their bespoke label, Taylored Records for what might amount to be their most accomplished effort to date, an album that is polished and proud outgrowing their various influences which have dotted previous album reviews.
Often compared with the likes of The Jayhawks, Wilco, Teenage Fanclub and The Pernice Brothers, Dropkick still drink from the same cup and to my mind have added some of the sonic adventures of The Boo Radleys’ Giant Steps to the mix while Andrew Taylor’s ventures into production (The Wynntown Marshals’ Long Haul) has paid dividends. The result is a multi layered collection of pure pop songs that range from pedal steel laced ballads to more baroque opuses with sumptuous keyboards and occasional studio effects.
Throughout the album the vocal harmonies are polished to a sheen but it’s the arrangements and embellishments that reel you in. Come Home opens the album with simple strummed guitars and an east coast lilt in the vocals but pretty soon a honeyed pedal steel creeps in taking one back to sun dappled Topanga Canyon Days. The discordant start and waspish synths of When It Starts however clouds this paradise before the dizzy and claustrophobic guitar buzz of Halfway Round Again, again augmented by fizzy synth along with a Strawberry Fields like coda, adds a hallucinogenic haze to the mix. Throughout the album the lyrics are somewhat opaque but for the most part seem to be about retaining relationships adding a melancholic air which is best captured on the aching organ drenched Jump Start which features a fine and gutsy guitar crunch while It’s My Life (Not Ours) burns with an ill disguised anger and slopes along with Neil Young guitar picking and some fine bass playing from Tobin while the keyboards add an air of gravitas. Rainbows is perhaps the pick here as a sole harmonica takes us into Dylan territory and Grier’s organ fills offer a glimpse of how The Band might have sounded had they hung about Edinburgh folk clubs. They close the album with a classic miniature on Carry Me Home. Acoustic guitar and piano open before a lonesome pedal steel (by guest Tim Davidson) offers an audio equivalent to the sun going down on this latest offering.
Homeward is released on 18th April and Dropkick are playing a short tour to celebrate the release. Good news for vinyl junkies is that the album will be available on 180 gram black vinyl in full colour sleeve, with lyric insert sheet, download code and a CD digipak version of ‘Homeward’ which you can order here.
Fri 11th April @ Twa Tams, Perth. 8.30pm. Free entry. With The Galipaygos.
Thu 17th April @ Clarks on Lyndsay St, Dundee. 8pm. Free entry. With The Galipaygos.
Fri 18th April @ Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh. Doors 7pm. £5 entry. With The Galipaygos.
Sat 19th April @ The Tea Posy, High St, Dingwall. 1.30pm. Acoustic set.
Sat 19th April @ Mad Hatters/Hootenany, Inverness. 9.30pm. With The Galipaygos.