The Martial Arts 2021
Contrasting the dreary perception of Caledonia, Scottish combo propose psychedelia pop for the worldwide audience to lap up.
This little collective have been plying their entertaining wares for decade and a half now, dealing mostly in mini-albums in order to make music missives punchier, and the “Getting Stranger By The Month” must seem like an ultimate expression of the vision that the project’s mastermind, multi-instrumentalist and singer Paul Kelly, harbors in his heart. Which is why, while taking care of retaining a light touch on every song written for THE MARTIAL ARTS – as opposed to BMX BANDITS where the Glaswegian plays yet doesn’t write – Paul digs deep into a tune and sculpts little edifices out of its ever-shifting layers. And when there’s Sean Biggerstaff, known to the public as Harry Potter’s pal Oliver Wood, complementing Kelly’s melodies with guitar on the EP’s title track and spicing up the groove on a couple of other cuts, a quotient of magic just has to go into the red, in terms of recording and feeling.
However, the retro-sounding number “Getting Stranger” is possessed with many more colors, as the classic Europop rules dictate, with sweet vocal harmonies wrapped around the veteran’s voice and analogue ivories dancing around simple beats, but opener “Guilt By Association” is motorik enough to be infectious and carry a sharp riff. And if “Bethany” marries honeyed balladry to perky jangle, “Nicechap” refers to the ’60s innocence – augmented with female swoon for a backing – and introduces tentative psychedelia to the mix before “The Wild Humdrum” rides a bass rumble towards a Brian Wilson-esque polyphony that’s genuinely flabbergasting.
Getting stranger, then? Closer to the listener’s soul, more like. Adorable, really.