Week in Pop: Blue of Noon, Cotillon, Gosh!, Sidewalk Chalk

Sjimon Gompers

A quick convenience store run with Jordan Corso of Cotillon; photographed by Laura Lynn Petrick.

Acting Strange

Toyland royalty—Acting Strange; press photo courtesy of the band.

East Kilbride by Glasgow’s own Billy Strange, Ali Strange & Jack Rabbit Strange are the trio otherwise known as Acting Strange, of whom have recently released their debut album TALK TALK TALK via the Glaswegian DIY imprint In Black Records. Acting Strange compound the litany of various underground British pop components in a brew that is stronger & more savage than your average pint of pub rock swill. This is the sound of a group that has cut their teeth on dive circuits & a diet of hopes held over from heroes mythologized on the yellowed pages of horded Sounds, Melody Makers & throwback NMEs that crystallized their leagues of heroes. The pantheon roll call is too numerous to mention [and besides, name dropping is not what we’re here for. -ed] but Acting Strange have released a full-length that is true to their original home-brewed visions organized & engineered with a whole lotta heart, sweat, tears, vinegar & lager.

Acting Strange kick off the party with the slippery 70s style “Sharp End” that keeps up a constant kicked-up pep, right before dropping into the gear grinding “Save Me” that clamors with a big time worthy of some big time stage space at Glastonbury. Harmonies & chords are a hallmark of the trio’s sound as enjoyed on the Mersey Beat tip of the hat of “Start It Over”, mixing power-pop gestures with the soft serenity Valentines of “Dreaming Away”, skipping into the wayward wandering rhythm piano ballad “Wrong Desires”, to the band theme jam of their name sake that is an ear-worm for the ages. Classic jagged make-out melodies are offered up with “RUMBLE”, kicking it real old school on the saloon swinging “Don’t Be Shy”, cascading their near-perfect harmonies into the finger snapping noir of “The Heist” that showcases the group’s crafty instrumental skills in making something straight out of a Peter Sellers comedy soundtrack. Dishing out tales of life on the dole are entertained on the inquiring unrest of “Questions”, exorcising the demons & surreal peccadilloes of the world with “Universe Blues”, right before sending you off with the tambourine shaking “Walk Like a Penguin” that is best thing you will hear from a group that is not the Brian Jonestown Massacre. TALK TALK TALK shows off the vast range of an incredibly fascinating group that jumbles up your twentieth century favorites in a hodge podge of pure pop. We can’t help but wonder what might happen if Acting Strange ever got their act together and applied their collective visions on one solitary sort of sound. But then again, we’re not exactly sure that is quite their thing. For more on this, read our interview with the group immediately after the following listen.

Bring us up to date on all the latest happenings in Glasgow; what’s good right now? What’s not? And above all, what has you all inspired locally right now?

I’m digging a new punk band called The Rottenrows’, they don’t give a shit if anybody likes them or not. Good fun. There’s also plenty of decent jam nights and open mics just now, so anybody can have a go most nights of the week. There’s always going to be shitty music happening too, but you’ve got to let everybody express themselves I suppose. It’s perpetually political season in Glasgow.

Tell us about the conversations that helped inform Talk Talk Talk and how you all feel you have grown since Night On The Tiles:

We wanted the album to have a good flow and be the kind of record you could drink with before going out for the night. We liked the build of albums like Lust for Life and Blood Sugar Sex Magik, we were fussy with running order and maintaining an energy throughout.

After we recorded Night On The Tiles we realized that half of the microphone we’d been using wasn’t working properly, which was good for lo-fi perverts, but we got a different mic and found stronger sounds for the drums and bass which makes the album a bit bigger sounding than the EP.

We didn’t enjoy playing the EP live so much as it was just us drunk with acoustics kicking a drum box. We made sure that the album was something we could play and enjoy live. Guitar. Bass. Drums.

Jack Rabbit joining us on drums influenced us in following a straight up rock ‘n’ roll sound, with the EP it was more overdriven acoustics and handclaps.

Interested in hearing some behind-the-board stories about recording via 8-track and how you all are able to create such timeless sounds that bridge the gulf between Mersey Beat heroes to California counter-culture pop:

With the 8 track you’ve got to go for a take and put yourself into everything you play as you can’t really fix it in the mix. We double track guitars and vocals to thicken them up a little, that’s minimalism by mainstream pop standards.

If it sounds timeless it’s because we haven’t really applied any flavor of the month production values to the sounds this time, these things date a record, not always for the worse. This album won’t age badly.

I think we sound like these older bands because they tended to be very melody driven in their song writing, so are we. We grew up with that stuff, it’s in our DNA, we just do it our way, the Strange way.

We don’t own a mic stand, we balance our mic in an old cocktail shaker filled with kitchen roll. Timbaland probably does the same.

Acting up & catching up with our friends Acting Strange; press photo courtesy of the band.

Best things you all have heard lately?

Jay Som, “1 Billion Dogs”

I saw a jazz duo called Binker and Moses on Jools Holland, check them out:

Artists & activists that are inspiring you all right now?

Anybody trying to move the species forward. There’s art in the mundane, that’s usually the best stuff.

Summer dreams, 2017 hopes?

I’d like the captain of the football team, Bobby Shannon, to pluck up the courage and ask me to the prom. Always a bridesmaid.

We’re planning to tour Europe at the end of the Summer, it’ll be good to stretch our legs and meet some new people on the road, punt a couple of CD’s.

Insights on what we can expect next from Acting Strange?

Alcohol abuse and creative insecurity, that and a killer live show.

Acting Strange’s album debut TALK TALK TALK is available now from In Black Records.

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