Sons & Daughters' last album, This Gift, was overseen by producer-about-town Bernard Butler, whose all-round know-how of song structure and guitar upholstery was intended to exploit the Glaswegians' virtues - feisty, spiky co-vocals, true grit, mercurial drama. On its own terms, the album was fine enough; but the band now views it as a failed experiment, something that wasn't quite theirs. Mirror Mirror is instead the band's opinion of what makes them special - and then some. By harking back to their mini-album debut Love the Cup and 2006's The Repulsion Box, it's their real big leap forward. Mother knows best, the saying goes...
It took them a while, though. This Gift was released over three years ago, during which time they've been forgotten. And Mirror Mirror is not obvious instant success. But given time, as with the best records, it reveals a wonderfully stark energy; all sinewy shadowplay, stripped-back space and a compelling sexuality - and not of the MTV groin-grinding variety. Principal singer Adele Bethel calls it a "sexy evil". The undercarriage of post-punk dance is also thrilling, and less a homage to the band's 80s teenage memories than a springboard for reinvention. On top, guitarist Scott Paterson is also singing more, re-instating the boy/girl dynamic implicit in the band name that was largely retired for This Gift; driven by both valiant voices, the opening Silver Spell oozes sensuality, but like a coiled spring.
To give some idea of their about-face, Mirror Mirror enlists the help of JD Twitch (aka Keith McIvor) of local club legends Optimo Music - it's his first album production and his understanding of rhythm proves a more empathic ear than Butler's. With his help, the band's admiration of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, The Cure and Gang of Four doesn't feel forced, and give or take Ink Free's clear reflection of Fever Ray's ominous presence, Mirror Mirror is unique for these times.
Ink Free concerns writer's block (just as Orion addresses the band's collective droop after they made This Gift, and Bee Song addresses depression). But Bethel is as interested in external demons, from serial killers to witchcraft to Angela Carter's menstrual fairytales. There's a dark, as well as sexy, evil in these songs, which matches the music's haunting aura. Try Rose Red, Don't Look Now or Axed Actor (which bizarrely cops the same key changes as Steam's bubblegum-happy 60s hit Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye) for full impact. There won't be a more sexily evil record released this year.
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