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Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2002

HIGH NOTES

Reindeer Section: "Son of Evil Reindeer"


The idea behind The Reindeer Section came up when a dozen or so leading lights of Glasgow's music scene attended a Lou Barlow concert and got very drunk together. As is often the case in such situations, the idea didn't seem half as interesting the next day.

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Only Gary Lightbody, the leader of the twee rock trio Snow Patrol (hence, "reindeer section"), carried through with it, writing all the songs for the proposed "supergroup" in a single day. The resulting album, "Y'all Get Scared Now, Ya Hear," included input from Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, Arab Strap, Astrid and the Mull Historical Society, but for all intents and purposes, it was a Lightbody solo effort.

Though pretty, the record didn't seem to warrant a sequel, but Lightbody must be a persuasive fellow (perhaps it's the Irish in him), because "Son of Evil Reindeer" augments the original lineup with several higher-profile Scottish groups like Teenage Fanclub and Idlewild. Even the "godfather" of Glaswegian rock, Eugene Kelly (who led The Vaselines, Kurt Cobain's second-favorite band), lends a hand.

It's no less a Lightbody album than the first one, but in order to accommodate all these extra hangers-on (27 in all), the arrangements have been filled out and the production level raised. Flutes, horns, strings, tape loops and, most importantly, a much meatier drum sound, give Lightbody's melancholic pop songs an urgency that was missing from the first record.

So whereas the single song by Arab Strap's Aidan Moffatt on "Scared" proved to be the standout highlight, here Moffatt's typically beery contribution ("Whodunnit?") fits snugly alongside Lightbody's compositions, which actually move this time. "Cartwheels" and the aptly titled single "You Are My Joy" simultaneously soar and churn, recalling The Sundays minus the sticky-sweet aftertaste. Brass and a heavenly chorus lift the ode to infanthood "Budapest" out of the playpen, and the stately "Your Sweet Voice" reaches its keening climax with soulful assurance.

As was demonstrated last month at Summer Sonic, the coordination of such a large, motley crew necessarily takes something away in terms of spontaneity, which is probably why the songs are so short, none more than three minutes. This brevity also makes them more addictively pleasurable. As a distillation of what makes the Glasgow sound so appealing, "Son of Evil Reindeer" turns out to be pretty damn effective, and you don't even have to be drunk to enjoy it.



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