SONS AND DAUGHTERS with the DOUBLE at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday (September 5). $9. 416-870-8000, 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
I don't know about you, but if the person I shared my bed with every night had a penchant for writing sinister songs about malevolent heartbreakers and cold-blooded murders, I'd feel a wee bit uneasy.
Happily, Scott Paterson, who fights over the cool spot on the pillow with fellow vocalist/guitarist Adele Bethel of deliciously dark Glaswegian folk-punks Sons and Daughters, doesn't seem all that bothered by his sweetie's affinity for penning narratives of death and psychological destruction.
Man, if my girlfriend snarled a couplet like "Monogamy to you is just black and blue / All the best psychotic lovers ain't got nothing on you" with as much genuine spite as Bethel musters on the aggressively catchy Monsters, off Sons and Daughters's new Repulsion Box (Domino) disc, I'd be watching my back. But, hey, that's just me.
"Oh, it's not like that's part of our lives; we're just oddly fascinated by it," he laughs. "There's a whole lot about people who don't get on, isn't there? Still, it's not like we were planning to devote two entire albums to that. Hopefully, we'll come up with some different content for the next one - we could end up doing a concept album about wizards!"
S&D's shadowy fables of rage and retribution are a treat to listen to, since they're framed by Ailidh Lennon's creaky mandolin and galloping spaghetti western bass lines and primal drumbeats from Bethel's former Arab Strap bandmate David Gow. Match those with piercing riffs that nasty up the art-rock assault of hometown pals and former tourmates Franz Ferdinand and you've got yourself a nouveau wave twist on old-school country murder ballads.
Paterson and his bandmates have always been upfront about the debt they owe to traditional tunes, though they're adamant that the stuff you'd find in their country pales in comparison to, say, Harry Smith's Anthology Of American Folk Music.
"The Scottish music we heard growing up was a bit cheesy, like what old men sang in pubs. The American stuff seemed much darker and angrier, not just about magical wizards and shite. Although I suppose Irish folk music's pretty angry, since it's all about hating the English."
Atmosphere is obviously important to Paterson, who says he's a fan of the otherworldly hiss and crackle of Harry Smith's archival recordings. While he and Bethel use their innate chemistry to achieve an appropriately intense vibe onstage, Sons and Daughters wisely recruited lauded producer Victor Van Vugt, the dude behind a plethora of Nick Cave recordings (including Murder Ballads), to help them achieve a creepy-good sound on disc.
Paterson claims Van Vugt was lovely to work with and shared the band's instinct that taping live off the floor would get the best results. They were tickled by some of his other recording tricks.
"I wanted to get a horrible, aggressive guitar sound," Paterson explains, "and Victor knew exactly how to do it from working with the Birthday Party. We were recording in Conny's Place (Conny-Plank-Studio, in Cologne), where a lot of krautrock stuff was made, so there were all sorts of gongs lying around.
"Victor set up a gong in front of the guitar amp and put a little contact mic on it so it gave us a fantastic, terrible, shaky, nasty reverb. I was amazed."
Clearly, the ghosts of Brian Eno and Kraftwerk, both of whom recorded albums in the studio, were watching over Sons and Daughters during the Repulsion Box sessions. And judging from Paterson's description of how the track Rama Lama came to be, there were other ghosts as well.
The super-spooky yarn, which tells the tale of a poor lass who drowns in her own bathtub, is the only tune Paterson wrote on the album.
"I'm not really a lyric-y person," he begins. "When I used to write my own solo stuff, the words were crap. So I'm glad Adele writes most of the lyrics now, cuz otherwise we'd probably still be stuck in Glasgow.
"We wrote Rama Lama in the studio. We knew we wanted it to be a half-spoken thing, I came up with the story pretty much out of nowhere, and we recorded it right then.
"Later on, Adele told me that the night before she'd been reading a Bukowski story about a guy in a pub who pays another fellow to kill his girlfriend by drowning her in a bathtub. The story was, like, identical, but she hadn't said anything to me about it before. Weird, huh?"