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The Radio Sweethearts | Lonesome Blue (Spit & Polish)
Like those Japanese students spotted on the streets of London who parade the look of western cool to a painful degree, out-posturing the i-D models they seek to emulate, Glasgow's own country swing doppelgangers Radio Sweethearts reproduce the blueprint with such conviction that it's just churlish to try to second guess them. For the most part Lonesome Blue is simply constructed and directly executed, but no less affecting for this. They do the mellow shuffle of Take Me Back to San Francisco, (it's still a shame that they can't mythologise their own surroundings) and follow it with Sweetheart Hoedown, where a sweetly irreverent mandolin and fiddle jostle for space in the line dance, followed by the honky-tonk blues of Tryin' to Forget About You. From exultant to despairing, this collection ends up as much more than the hollow fakebook rendering of paint-by-numbers country it but still it's not at all clear what the band are trying to achieve with Red Line. It seems to divide into two modes: the adrenalised head rush which defines the band and the spooky ambient noodles and barely-there beats that provide a kind of intermission part-way through. As chill and Germanic as a Goose Step, there's little emotion embedded either way. If Trans Am are reduced to some kind of dialectic, these two styles form the thesis and antithesis, but as for any kind of synthesis- there isn't one. It's an album that is busy and varied, and, as such, seems full of ideas (and Trans Am are definitely a band of ideas) but at the same time it's entirely vacant. By the time the enervated metal sledgehammer of Ragged Agenda (sung and with lyrics by the Make-Up's Ian Svenonius) hits home, you know that there's nowhere to go, no story to tell. The final track Shady Grove introduces a saxophone, which honks belatedly into action before the song cuts out abruptly in mid flow, leaving us with only the vaguest conception of what exactly Trans Am are getting at.
CWAS #6 - Autumn 2000