There was a time about five years ago when Glasvegas appeared to be Scotland’s answer to Kings of Leon. Here was a foursome whose songs were built on drunken, swaggering romanticism, leadman James Allan playing the piss-n’-vinegared Scottish equivalent of KOL’s raspy-throated Tennessee scamp Caleb Followill. Perhaps more importantly, the band had licks to match the giant emotions of Allan’s slurred manchild contritions. In their self-titled debut, with its arsenal of catchy, guitar-driven melodies and grand, heartstring-tugging affectations, they churned out track after track of stirring pub tunes. The formula clicked early and often, even finding its perfect iteration on the towering “Geraldine,” Allan’s love letter to his social worker-cum-guardian angel.
Unfortunately, while Glasvegas’s sophomore release, Euphoric Heartbreak, seemed poised to deliver epic, stadium-shattering sing-alongs, it was clear the band had either forgotten or neglected the two muses that informed and vitalized their earlier music—namely, the blue-collar, British beat rock of the 1960s and rough evocations of early rockabilly songwriters like Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison. Glasvegas’s third full-length, Later…When the TV Turns to Static, attempts to recapture that blend of raucous posturing, snotty charm, and sweet, retro-tinged spirit. Stoking that once-bristling fire is a manageable task thanks to Allan’s voice, an emotional, liquor-laced powerhouse. On both “Finished Sympathy” and “If,” the album’s most ambitious tracks, he delivers a sloppy confessional over thick choruses of sawing guitars. Conveying more sober, world-weary iterations of Glasvegas’s earlier pathos, the songs effectively mine both teenage and working-class melancholy to produce a kind of righteous, resentment-fueled anger, suggesting that Allan and company still have some gas left in that tank.
Glasvegas also attempts to expand its sonic horizons with tracks like “Choices” and “I’d Rather Be Dead (Than Be with You),” both reverb-drowned piano ballads that find an understated Allan opting for whispers over howls. Though there’s little in the way of emotional breakthroughs beyond the band’s grief over lost love and familial strain, it certainly counts as maturation that Glasvegas has moved beyond pairing all of Allan’s screeds to the same cache of shrieking, U2-inspired guitar lines. Later isn’t quite the world-conquering rock opus their debut turned out to be, but it proves that Glasvegas has effectively shaken off their second-album hangover.