The simple pleasures in life are often the best. In U.S. Highball‘s debut album Great Record, we have just that. A 27 minute long album consisting solely of guitars, a synth, a casiotone organ, drum machine and some wonderfully wry vocals.
Calvin Halliday and James Hindle have a formula which is simple, but effective. Every track is less than three minutes long, meaning all the excess is trimmed away, and what remains is a nugget of pure pop gold.
Opening track ‘Kelvinhall‘ ticks all the boxes an album opener should. It’s catchy and memorable; it establishes the sound the rest of the record will follow; and provides an insight of the themes explored throughout.
Behind the tales of love and life as a musician, this record is really a love letter to the city of Glasgow. The way in which the duo are repeatedly drawn back to Kelvinhall, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Glasgow School of Art, Old Dumbarton Road and other locations almost without realising is testament to the adoration they have for the city.
It would be easy to claim that the inherent Glaswegian-ness of these songs is due to the geography embedded so deeply within them. But there’s more to it than that. It’s got something to do with the down to earth, to the point storytelling; the make-do-with-what-we’ve-got arrangements; and the relaxed nature of the melodies which is reminiscent of a city very comfortable in its own skin.
You get a real sense of the instrumental arrangements on ‘Hall of Heads‘, what with its rapid fire drum machine rolls and playful synth melodies. It’s a clear indication that U.S. Highball aren’t going to try and dress this album up as something it’s not. Good on them.
The thematic adventures of Great Record would have me posturing for days, were it not for the fact I keep getting distracted by the hooks on this album. My god they’re good. The chorus of ‘My Frankenstein‘, for instance, bops along at just the right pace to allow every line latch itself in your brain.
‘Do It Yourself‘, meanwhile, is full of glimpses of life in a DIY band, with lyrical rhythms switching from short, sharp snippets to elongated lines from second to second.
Great Record is a truly charming album, full of warm moments and simple but lovingly executed observations on life in what U.S. Highball have – I suspect rightly – claimed is “actually the greatest city on earth”.
Sounds Like… The nonchalant heartbeat of Glasgow