A great many music writers, broadcasters and commentators in Scotland have been singing the praises of The Wellgreen, without necessarily getting around to showcasing their wonderfully harmonic songs. 1320Radio has been guilty of that same charge and we stand here with our heads hung in shame. Still, as Spike Lee might have said (or not) there’s always a time to do the right thing.
The Wellgreen hail from the west side of the Scottish nation but that’s no excuse for sitting here in the east and ignoring some of the finest close harmony pop of the last five years. The group began, to the best of my knowledge, as a duo consisting of Stuart Kidd and Marco Rea but have now morphed nicely into an engaging wee four-piece with Daniel McGeever and Jim McGoldrick. Having said that, 1320Radio hasn’t entirely been in a state of blissful ignorance because Stuart Kidd’s sweetly short solo songs have featured prominently on our Eclectic Selected playlists for some time.
Earlier this year The Wellgreen released an album that was part-retrospective and part-new release which contained a happy mix of pleasures past and pastures new. The most remarkable thing about it, apart from the quality of the songwriting, the savvy instrumentation the close-to-you harmony vocals is the sheer consistency of the twelve cuts included on Summer Rain. This fresh impetus is partly down to a collaboration between the band’s own label The Barne Society and the Spanish label Pretty Olivia Records which led to the release of this anthology on vinyl.
Now, there are far younger and far brighter things with access to a laptop who have fallen for the melodic charms of the Wellgreen and written lovingly abut them. They have gushed at length about the rich mix of retrofied pop, the sweetness of the voices and the honey-dripping harmonic blend of high-end song-writing and knowledgeable points of reference. They have all been quite right to flag up the McCartney-isms, not least on the title track Summer Rain and Jennifer which are both strongly suggestive of a band on a good run of form. It’s highly likely too that their love of quality pop songsmithery owes something to breathing the same invigorating west coast air as Teenage Fanclub.
Maybe It’s The Pressure of the City has a touch of gazey-period TF winsome optimism in the face of dreams unravelling and towering uncertainties. That’s been part of the charming deception of The Wellgreen; on closer inspection the songs are much more sophisticated than they first appear. Grin and Bear It was one of their first releases and it remains instantly appealing five years down the line. It’s here that I’d like to add my ‘half-pund’ of opinion on the performance chops. That particular track is a pure slice (by the way) of Scots pop that only Scottish voices can produce and could easily constitute a tradition out on its own if only more artists mined it fully.
The much loved Marmalade (Cousin Norman, Rainbow), Dream Police, Hughie Nicolson’s brilliant Blue (Life in the Navy) and, more recently, The Hazey Janes (Hotel Radio) have produced some of the very finest examples from the mists of time, and the Wellgreen are the latest in a long illustrious line to carry the torch now. It’s not necessary here to indulge in a wiki-history of pop music, but several Scots acts past and present have maintained a keen interest in the Beatles/Beach Boys mutual friendly society. It gave rise in Scotland I think, to a west coast pop-for-purists sound that re-imagines Saltcoats as San Francisco, and Hyndland Road as Abbey Road
You can also hear an authentic band identity coming through very strongly on songs such as She’s the Greatest, Remember and The Circle. I’m made to recall the surprise some of us felt when we first heard The Feeling and witnessed their unlikely success. That was a time when I was ready to agree that pop would eat itself, but songwriter writers like The Wellgreen show with songs like Impossible Love that the idiom can still re-invent itself and stay forever young.
Summer Rain is out now. The Wellgreen play selected Spanish dates this month. Listen out for them too on 1320Radio playlists and on one of our upcoming Monday Night Hangover shows.
Michael S. Clark