Rather than the typical bent of this blog – to profile a new album in its entirety – this week's post will take a bit of a different tact: promoting a band that needs some additional support in order to move forward with a full-length record. However, fitting the moniker of this space – directing interested music observers to new music – this group did, in fact, release a new offering yesterday, that being the single "Cigarettes and Cellulite" by the Scottish trio Outbox.
Some of the most concentrated producers of solid new music activity recently have been the Scots, from the delicately ornate chamber pop of Belle & Sebastian to the more hard-nosed, heavily-brogued rockers Frightened Rabbit and We Were Promised Jetpacks, as well as the multi-dimensional KT Tunstall. While stylistically very different from any of these Scotians, Outbox nonetheless matches the quality in output in the limited material they have available stateside.
The aforementioned single – available through online outlets such as iTunes and emusic.com – hardly sounds like other Scottish outfits, with its Rick Springfield-esque chord progression at the outset and heartland veneer. While frontman Michael Macdermid certainly delivers compelling vocals along with both guitar and bass parts, the group's real treasure might be pianist/keyboardist Rachel Wood. Her southern rock-infused piano work here, along with essential backing vocals, transports the number from the lochs and highlands to the American interstate, the perfect compliment to a roadside attraction or pit-stop diner. And since little information is available on the band to date, whoever did the track's songwriting deserves significant credit for constructing an arrangement well-suited to the talents and temperments of the three-piece. The effort is certainly enough to justify a full-length recording on its own.
Other back-issue material from Outbox is also accessible through online media, such as their debut single, "Lucy, You've Got to Go Home." While less cohesive than the new release, the song is a solid case of pop rock, much in the Fastball or Fountains of Wayne tradition. Unlike the clean guitars and rolling piano of "Cigarettes and Cellulite," the number is more Beatles than Eagles, with layers of keyboards and bass at its foundation. Drummer Steve Curtis does admirable work here, as well as on other tracks such as "The Science in Me" and "How to Fly." With only three instrumentalists in Macdermid, Wood and Curtis, the canvas of sound is by no means sparse and the performances are technically proficient.
The most glaring need for the trio is to release more material available in the U.S. The group has a modest number samples of unreleased tracks available on its Myspace page, such as "Ivan, Can You Tell Me," which sounds like an uptempo Wallflowers outtake and the Mellencampian "Waking Up the Dense." Meanwhile, "Mine All Mine" exhibits strong pop sensibilities and well-crafted harmonies, something you might expect from a hybrid of Sloan and the Barenaked Ladies. Additionally, Outbox received favorable feedback for its cover of Taio Cruz's "Break Your Heart," including from the original artist himself. These brief smatterings suggest a deeper reservoir of talent and execution that should be exploited in a full album. Should you be likewise compelled, please drop them a line on their Myspace suggesting the audience available to them on this side of the pond (or elsewhere).
Come for: "Cigarettes and Cellulite"
Stay for: "Lucy, You've Got to Go Home"
You'll be surprised by: "Waking Up the Dense"