From Scotland’s moors to your front doors! Brought together by a shared passion for jangling guitars, animal-print couture, arcane Britannia, and ample handfuls of hallucinogens, The Uncle Devil Show take classic Anglo-pop around strangely intriguing new corners with their bafflingly... more
Is it a put-on? A con? Maybe – if the music weren’t so good. Kaleidoscopic psychedelica of the highest order. As Diana Ross didn’t quite put it, refractions of what used to be. The Uncle Devil Show begin with core kernels of classically composed pop songs, melodically incisive with a driving beat of the Mersey stripe. Then, through the distorted lens of their own wit and humor, things mutate. Sinister lines emerge from verses which first seem innocuous. Cunning allusions to arcane Britannia punctuate the proceedings – a dip in Barrymore’s pool anyone? And the music...exhilarating guitar driven Anglo-pop, rinsed in the waters of the Beatles, the Small Faces, the Kinks, and the like, yet entirely the property of the big brain known as The Uncle Devil Show.
Think of it as a movie, with no pictures: three actor/musicians leaving behind the roles they previously made famous to invest themselves in a b(r)and new scenario. Justin Currie, the frontman, songwriter, and vocalist for Scottish pop favorites Del Amitri (best known stateside for their massive Triple-A radio hit "Roll To Me"), stars as bassist and ex-postal worker Jason Barr. At his side is guitarist/vocalist/fellow postman Langton Herring, played by cult Scottish songwriter Kevin McDermott. Rounding out the combo is the former cruise ship drummer only known as Terrance, as portrayed by Jim McDermott – best known for his work with another formidable Scottish band, Simple Minds.
Taking their name from a 1985 episode of The New Twilight Zone TV series, The Uncle Devil Show work from within their fictitious personas and leave any trace of pop-star ego in the dust. Consequently, their resulting debut album, A Terrible Beauty, arrives as if transported from some other, strangely better dimension. The precise popsmarts that fueled Del Amitri are well intact, matched with a keen sense of the gloriously, profoundly absurd. All three sing, both lead and lusciously captivating harmonies, and the compositions (co-written by Currie and Kevin McDermott) are ingeniously humorous while avoiding the pitfall of being merely funny.
The opening "Leonardo’s Bicycle" introduces itself as a relaxed meditation on cycling away from the urban hustle, until it is revealed that the instrument of transit wasn’t just designed by Leonardo – it was stolen from him. After all, nothing releases the adrenalin like a good heist. Currie delivers the cross-dresser’s lament "Plus Ca Change" with tender frustration, befitting what is perhaps the only pop missive to transvestite angst. Meanwhile, Kevin McDermott shines on "Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker," a portrait of a man driven mad by the unending streams of chirping, flapping, and feces from the local feathered rat population. Sneeze at the right time, and you’ll miss a tasty sonic nod to a certain Liverpudlian foursome. One of many, truth be told.
From "Tambourine’s” elliptical swells to "I Had a Drink About You Last Night’s” plaintive hybrid of hyperbole and self-pity, A Terrible Beauty delights in testing the lyrical limits of the timeless Brit-beat-pop song. The first single, the Currie-sung "She Cuts Her Own Fringe," is the absolute pinnacle of the Uncle Devil vibration. Bittersweet, touching, yet distinctly skewed, "Fringe" is a peculiar love song about a peculiar lass. She’s taught her parrot to sing Motorhead songs. She mangles her own clothing. "She keeps her phone in a tin," Currie swoons, "so that the ringer sounds like an alien." And Currie – aka Jason Barr – can’t get enough of her.
Strapped to a tunefully driven backbeat and complete with harpsichord solo, "She Cuts Her Own Fringe" is destined to introduce the world to all the wonders that The Uncle Devil Show has to offer. Who better to summarize the situation than the band themselves, who modestly surmised the following in their first, self-composed press release: "Not everyone digs the way they wear their hair - but then not everyone unused to a life of dignified manual labour knows how to dig properly. The Uncle Devil Show does. These handsome rakes are the aces of spades. They’re hoes who are seriously bitchin’. They’re earthy sods, and this is sweet soil music. Mulch ado about something!"