Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sense Sickness

I don’t know how many times I saw Del Amitri live in Glasgow back in the very early days when they were a jangly guitar pop band, but it must have been a hell of a lot. I got to know Bryan Tolland (the fair-haired guitarist with the sticky-up hairstyle) through my own band’s drummer who had been at art school with them. The songs were intricate affairs, fragile and clever, and Justin Currie was a dramatic, original lyricist. They played semi-regular gigs in The Venue at the west end of central Sauchiehall Street along with other up-and coming bands from Glasgow’s burgeoning scene, such as Lloyd Cole and the Commotions etc.

With the original line-up, they released a couple of singles and an excellent eponymous album. I have a copy on vinyl. It’s rough in places, but some of the songs are brilliant. You can hear samples from it here at

Following a bad-tempered U.S. tour and an album the record company declined to release, Bryan and Paul (the drummer) were booted out the band, due to “differences in musical direction” or words to that effect. If you listen to Sense Sickness or the first album and compare it to the rootsy rock that came afterwards, you can hear pretty clearly what those “musical differences” must have been! I'd guess that a refusal to grow big bushy sideburns might also have been a factor...

I bought the second album on the day of its release and (apart from “Nothing Ever Happens”) felt betrayed. Looking back, I can see that music wasn’t a game for Justin and Iain, but a living, and they had massive commercial success – deservedly as they were very talented. But I much prefer the early stuff. Sense Sickness was the debut single, which I also have on vinyl. There’s a hiccup in the video at 18 seconds or so, but the song still sounds really good to me.

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