Release Date: Jun 13, 2011
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
After the raging brilliance of their 2008 album This Gift, on which the band sounded like X with production by Phil Spector (actually Bernard Butler, but still…), Sons & Daughters had two choices. Get bigger or strip it down. To their credit, the band decided to go the less commercial and more challenging stripped-down route. With the help of producer J.D.
If Sons and Daughters' third record, This Gift, hardly reaped the sales rewards of its more polished sound, then certainly its reining in of idiosyncrasies and shinier production (courtesy of Bernard Butler) is all the ammunition that the indier-than-thou brigade needed. Never mind that it was potentially the band's most consistently catchy album to date; it seems that Sons and Daughters themselves weren't altogether pleased with it. Mirror Mirror sees them turn to their earlier work for inspiration as well as incorporating some electronic augmentation, which is in part the influence of producer Keith McIvor, aka JD Twitch of Glasgow DJs Optimo.
Sons and Daughters have always been rather overshadowed by the Glasgow scene that they emerged from. Formed as a splinter group from Arab Strap's touring band, they landed their deal with Domino from supporting Franz Ferdinand and have always strongly resembled The Delgados with their duelling boy-girl vocals. As a result of this they've generally been seen as a solid yet unremarkable act, with even the most positive of reviews still feeling the need to add qualifications to their enthusiasm.
In their pursuit of something more minimal, Sons and Daughters infuse their wry, gothic leanings with some new flair. They consciously reached back to their roots here—minus the rockabilly touches—for something drier and more stripped down than 2008's This Gift. In some ways, this almost feels like a rejection of that album. .
Treading darker territory than in the past, Glasgow's Sons and Daughters have made a curious album that never quite hits the mark. When lead singer Adele Bethel is given the spotlight - as on Rose Red, a song where she takes on the persona of a serial killer - things work best. Unfortunately, both she and singer/guitarist Scott Paterson take a back seat to the heavily percussive backing tracks.
Over the course of an EP and two albums, Glasgow's Sons and Daughters wedded punk's charged menace to a much older macabre spirit lurking in the musty back pages of folk, pop, and rockabilly. It's a neatly evocative trick, but one that gloomy post-punk icons like X, the Mekons, and the Birthday Party already pulled off in the late 1970s and early 80s. Another quarter-century removed from greasers, torch singers, and murder balladeers, Sons and Daughters' resurrections had a tendency to feel like kitsch, but really fun kitsch.
The 2000s have seen countless bands making pilgrimages to the well of post-punk for inspiration and theft. For every band like the Horrors, whose Primary Colours was a shining example of the elixir’s potency, there have been many bands like Editors who, despite success, have failed to honor the genre’s blazing originality by summoning any uniqueness of its own (the ability to make a Prefab Sprout song brutally unlistenable notwithstanding). Scotch outfit Sons and Daughters—whose previous incarnations included punky and punky with some minor commercial sensibilities—has chosen to drink forth from that post-punk well on their fourth release, Mirror Mirror.
There’s a fine line between sounding atmospheric and sounding sterile on record. Unfortunately with Mirror, Mirror, Sons & Daughters’ fourth album, the music tends to lean towards the latter. Vocalist/guitarist Scott Paterson admits the band was approaching the recording from a different angle; a more minimalist direction. The band succeeds outright with their attempts in that regard, but at what cost? Few songs linger in one’s brain before searching for something else on the iPod, and the album doesn’t have the well-worn excuse of: “Well, you have to listen to it front-to-back to truly appreciate it.” Instead, Mirror, Mirror offers up a few songs of note while the rest resides in the dreaded heap of all-filler-no-killer.
There won’t be a more sexily evil record released this year. Martin Aston 2011 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.
Scottish band Sons And Daughters burst onto the indie music scene back in 2005 with the vehement, visceral, and critically-lauded debut The Repulsion Box. Raw emotions ran riot as Adele Bethel and Scott Paterson dueled and harmonized to electric effect. Subsequent album This Gift, with Bernard Butler at the helm, saw the band refine and gild its sound to the point of being too ornate in song structure and too reliant on Adele as the primary singer.
When the astonishing curse-core minimalism of ‘Silver Spell’ first charmed our ears, it seemed to bode a dark and daring new departure for the Glasgow gang’s fourth album. It turns out to be a sly feint, sadly. Where they have branched out on this JD Twitch-produced noirfest, the cold Siouxsie And The Bansheeisms of ‘The Model’ and ‘Origin’ are less than revolutionary.The more familiar-sounding songs, such as ‘Rose Red’, though, do sound even tamer in comparison.