Album Review: John Wean – Rock is Dead. Long Live Paper and Scissors! EP

By on Monday, 10th June 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

While I was on holiday in Scotland last month, having finished way too early in the night after the Treetop Flyers gig at Electric Circus, I was bored and flipping through the channels on the telly in my shoebox of a room in Edinburgh and chanced upon BBC Alba, the digital Scottish Gaelic station part owned by the BBC but with most of its content produced in Scotland. Once I got over some of the foreign language that totally went over my head, BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway appeared (looking as jovial as the time I met him at SXSW 2012), then disappeared to let a rock band take the spotlight. I squinted. Wait a minute. These lads look familiar… Isn’t that John Wean? I practically screamed in light of my good luck.

Young Glaswegian rockers John Wean have been on my radar since the summer of 2011, when I heard early single ‘Desperate Dan (She Told Me She Was Single)’. While they’ve been around for a while and certainly have racked up quite a few gigs under their belt (according to their Facebook biography, they’ve supported another band favourite of mine, Stockton’s Young Rebel Set), they’ve only released one past EP and a single here or there. Last summer’s ‘New York Doesn’t Love You’, for one, was a standout. But now the quartet have their second EP out with the very humourous title ‘Rock is Dead. Long Live Paper and Scissors!’ But the content, at least from the start, is no joking matter.

If you’re the type like me who is easily offended by strong language, steel yourself for the opening line of ‘Drive Time’. Despite the poppish instrumentation, borderline cutesy rhyming scheme in the verses and oh oh ohs, this is not a happy song. At all. It’s the distillation of a man’s crushing realisation that the woman he loves is a conniving two-timer: “I’m laughing ‘cos I can’t believe what’s coming out / you’re lying to the bone, and I’m just finding out / I’m laughing ‘cos I can’t believe what’s coming out /you’re crying down the phone, but now I’ve sussed you out”. The song ends, satisfyingly and appropriately, on an unfinished note; this leaves it raw emotionally.

As a music reviewer, it’s a given that you go into a song titled ‘Ecstacy’ bemused. Is this song going to be about making love, or the party drug? My impression is the former, and to be honest, I’m relieved, because it’s so anthemic, with its feel good singalong chorus and noodling guitar lines. “My heart’s beating, won’t you find that feeling?” is the repeated refrain, as the singer explains all the beautiful places he’s found himself in, yet he’s still remembering that moment in winsome vocals, full of the wonderment of…well, something truly special and wonderful. After the pain-inducing ‘Drive Time’, it’s welcome. Another nice touch: the first 5 seconds of ‘Ecstacy’ is a cinematic, symphonic intro. (That didn’t go unnoticed, guys. Nice one.)

Three songs in, and you’re at ‘For the Girl’, which the band recently released a promo video for. (Watch it in this previous Video of the Moment post.) This is more of the John Wean of the ‘New York…’ I remember. It’s the most radio-friendly of the four tracks on this EP, but it’s got the most confounding lyrics. At first, I thought the song represented a single argument between two suitors fighting over one girl. But the more I think about it, I wonder if it was written such that it’s really two separate arguments that are happening in our protagonist’s head: his desire to convince the girl he loves that the boy he’s with isn’t the right one for her, and also to tell off another suitor, “hands off, she’s mine”. All that aside, the incredible catchiness of the song – delivered by a driving drum beat and rhythmic guitar – isn’t likely to be lost on Radio1 and if you’re not a lyrics geek like me, ignore the above and just enjoy the song.

And then we come to the end and ‘November’, which is only what I can describe as chaos: white lines, police fines, street fights, dog bites. Instrumentally, the crashing guitars and drums sound great. But on this EP, I liked this the one the least; it’s more of a germ of an idea than a fully formed song than the other three. But three good tracks on a four-track EP from a very young band just starting to really release material? Pretty damn good.

8/10

‘Rock is Dead. Long Live Paper and Scissors!’, the new EP from Glaswegian band John Wean, is out now. Stream EP track ‘Ecstacy’ below.

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