The Proclaimers

Compared to their Celtic cousins in Ireland, there are relatively few rock bands that sound recognizably Scottish. Big Country comes to mind, but that group seemed gimmick-driven -- Stuart Adamson decked himself out in plaid and made his guitar sound like bagpipes, but he sang in that generic universal accent, about generic working-class-lad themes, and that band's popularity lasted about as long as most novelty acts, at least stateside.

The Proclaimers take the opposite tack, and have enjoyed a much more enduring -- if spotty -- career. There's nothing overtly Scottish about the music on Born Innocent; instead, it sounds like first-rate country- and soul-influenced roots rock, at times like Steve Earle circa I Feel Alright; at others, a little like the last few Nick Lowe records. And neither does the lyrical subject matter have much to do with the Scottish experience -- the Proclaimers favor the universal over the local. Original sin comes in for a lambasting on "Born Innocent," suicide bombers and their handlers get flayed on "Blood on Your Hands," and the aspects of love that don't frolic in the sun are aired in all their warty horror elsewhere.

No, what the Proclaimers do is deceptively simple. They sing in their natural accents, which may not seem like a big deal, except for the fact that it is. As Proclaimer co-front man Charlie Reid said a couple of years ago, "People would say, well, maybe if you changed your accents when you sung, you might get more chance at doing it, but we did it in the end on our own terms, which is what we wanted to do."

Springing from that bullshitless baseline of pride and genuine-ness, it's hard to go wrong. And the Proclaimers don't, at least not on Born Innocent. Edwyn Collins produces and drenches the proceedings with a few extra ladles of soul and Beatlesque keyboard touches, Charlie Reid and identical twin Craig sing like avenging angels, and the band plays with the righteous fervor of Aragorn hacking his way through an Orc platoon.

And you don't often hear see-ya-later songs as dark as "Hate My Love," with lines like "You're worse than drink / You're worse than crack / for you they should bring hanging back / And I should be the one to string you up." Or parenthood songs as wickedly true as "He's Just Like Me," which starts off like this: "His father's pride / his mother's joy / The end result of love a beautiful little boy / You think he's perfect, and that he'll be / the answer to all the disappointment you feel in me." And then the kicker. He won't, because "he's just like me."

Sadly, there aren't many bands -- ones that sing like Groundskeeper Willie or ones that don't -- like the Proclaimers.

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax