It’s been a while since Warren McIntyre and The Starry Skies released their well-respected debut album, Ask The Animals. Six years in fact. Now they’re back with McIntyre dropping his prefix to the band name although he remains the driving force behind the band’s pulsating mix of driving power pop and folkier material all filtered through an Americana sensibility. Be Kind is an upbeat album and McIntyre is on record as saying that, “One thing there is not enough of is people being kind to each other, it’s really clichéd but it’s nice to be nice. I decided I wanted to be more straightforward lyrically and send a simple message about spending the rest of my time on this planet being as kind as I can as much as I can.” Well he just about does that here although some of the songs on the album do wander into darker territory.
He sets out his Be Kind manifesto on the opening song of the same name. It’s a bucolic and gentle introduction to the album, McIntyre’s voice clear and gentle as he sings over piano and a string section. Glitter & The Glory then bursts into view with a bang as the band shift into a star spangled psych pop mode. With rushes of jangled guitar and cinematic sweeping strings and McIntyre spitting out his Dylan like lyrics, this is quite majestic in its multi layered splendour and dynamic delivery. Next up is another cracker in the form of the single lifted from the album, Starry Skies which has a George Harrison like slide guitar and psychedelic strings as the rhythm section drive the song along with Noel O’Donnel’s drumming quite the powerhouse. These two songs might recall the densely arranged psychedelic pop rock of the sixties but the band are also able to roll out their rinky dink salute to party girls out for a night on the tiles on High Girls which comes across like Alex Chilton fronting the funksters at Stax . Here the band hit a tremendous groove with pumping bass guitar from Jonathan Lilley and a whizz bang guitar solo from John Rooney as McIntyre leers but never becomes lascivious.
Bombs Betty is a fiery rocker with screeching fiddle from Heather Phillips although it suffers somewhat in comparison to the songs mentioned above as the band wail about an apocalyptic future. There’s more desolation in the landscape summoned up on Guns & Gold which is delivered here with a fine New York punk sneer and it allows McIntyre to return to his theme of kindness as he reaches out a helping hand to those affected by downtown mischief. That helping hand is there again on the gentle lope of I’ll Be There For You which is a country styled duet and which shows that the band can rein it in and still carry an emotional punch. Loving You is even more delicate as McIntyre and Heather Phillips swoon together on a tremendous song which in its hazy delivery recalls the likes of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra and also Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. For our money it’s the jewel in the crown here although the album as a whole shows that west coast Scotland can rival west coast America at times.
Starry Skies officially unveil the album with a launch gig on the 6th October as part of the Glasgow Americana Festival, all details here.