An adolescence spent in the depths of the South West Scottish countryside has left this particular prophet with countless songbooks bulging with wry observation, unfettered passion and pop melodies which refuse to be shaken off. The sound is undeniably contemporary, with sprinklings of artful nostalgia.
Recorded at Glasgow’s all-analogue Green Door Studio only a few months after their formation in 2012, the self-released debut EP Saint Max and the Fanatics won support from luminaries including Steve Lamacq, Jim Gellatly and Vic Galloway (who included the band on his list of 25 bands for 2013). Landing unsolicited in our inbox, the EP immediately pricked the ears of Armellodie Records and we snapped up the young poet for a full-length player.
Returning to Green Door, Saint Max is Missing and the Fanatics are Dead was recorded by Emily MacLaren and Stuart Evans (Optimo, Domino, Creeping Bent). Saint Max’s sound is born to an eclectic family of influences, harking back to artists as varied as Bowie, Madness and Morrissey. It is bound together, however, by a razor sharp delivery which simply cannot be ignored.
The rhythmic frenzy of album opener ‘Soul Surrender’ melds mariachi horns with molten adolescent angst, whilst the ruckus wails, screeches and yodels of ‘Afraid of Love’, march to the beat of sexual frustration. The defiant chorus line "Don't hold me down!" screams with the vital energy of youth, whilst paying homage to all species of angular pop music.
A cynical meditation on modern living, ‘A Life Worth Living’ is a catchy pop gem with a profound internal commentary. The Fanatics create the storm with angular guitar, trumpet and trombone. In the eye of the storm stands Saint Max, underpinned by an airtight rhythm section there is no confusion in the chaos they create.
Having performed at a masked ball in a 14th century castle, a medieval fort (for the Doune the Rabbit Hole Festival), and flat parties up and down the country, The Fanatics have shown their brand of ADHD-Pop can be as surreal as it is accessible.
The punchy horn chops and rhythmic execution are ever a match for Saint Max’s lyrical finesse. ‘Let ‘Em Have It Sunshine’, ‘Glasgow’, ‘Conduit’, and ‘T-Shirt’ hit the spot time and again like shots of musical serotonin.
Displaying a capacity in his songwriting for conveying genuine depth, ‘Sadsong’ and ‘She Sings a Lovely Lullaby’ provide the inevitable comedown to the frenetic mania of the preceding tracks; the former a mournful lament on unrequited romance, the latter, as wistful as it is wilful, an almost anthemic climax to an insidiously catchy album.
The kiss-off here is ‘Book Review’. A lilting critique of modern values, the band in an ephemeral, stripped back arrangement. It all serves as a pensive conclusion to an emotionally charged debut album: Saint Max - musing to an offbeat-groove.