PREMIERE | Neutrals, 'Kebab Disco'
Neturals keep the post-punk indebted sound of young Scotland thriving alive and well in the Bay Area as we present a first listen to their new album Kebab Disco. Allan McNaughton brings the Glasgow swagger and fog to the misty ambiance of California's storied coast where wide eyed UK art school chic meets the constant flux of the Oakland/San Francisco scenes.
Allan evokes the aesthetic of Television Personalities and other like-minded part time punkers with the confident strut of "I Can Do That", the headaches of putting up with petty larceny when it comes to your wax on "Missing Records", to shredding about on the shamble core mod punk ethos of "Half Shut Knife", to doting on academics with hopeful thoughts about a more beautiful and abundant future with "Technical College". Memories of yesterday meet the consciousness of the present on the sentimental "24 Pictures of You", to the scene and be-seen styles of "You Were Seen", to dealing with anxiousness and other maladies on "Angst Reflex", to taking a moment to absorb the shifting changes at work in the Bay on "Food Court", to lampooning the inherent ironies of the baby boomer hippies on the cheeky "I Hate the Summer of Love". Engines are revved up in the ode to the authority on two-wheels with "Motorcycle Cop", to the rose tinted romanticism of "Comin Up Roses", to roasting myths pertaining to the so-called neutral country in the Alps that serves as a way for McNaughton to repeat the band's moniker like an on brand tagline.
Allan McNaughton of Neutrals provided us with the following exclusive breakdown of the new album Kebab Disco:
“The Art School Suite”
When we were arranging the track order for the Kebab Disco album, we realized that there was a very loose thread running through a chunk of the songs that I hadn’t necessarily noticed as I was writing them. It turns out I had written quite a few songs that drew somewhat from my personal experiences of Glasgow in the early 90s. There were places and people that kept popping up in different songs, especially the Art School — more for the disco than the school itself (I was not enrolled there.) I’m not usually one for nostalgia but maybe the current world we live in seemed too depressing to write about, so I subconsciously looked to the past.
“I Can Do That”
They stand at the back, arms folded, in silent judgement. They know they can do better and marvel at the unfairness of life. How did they get that gig? This was one of the first songs written for Neutrals. Like most of our songs, it’s obviously very simple. Pretty much just all chorus. We don’t really go in for songcraft.
This is a cautionary tale about living with sticky-fingered ingrates. Another old song given a new lease of life on the album. We recorded a version of this with Rolf Harris stylophone licks all over it, but it was rejected in mixing by the Phils.
“Half Shut Knife”
This one is somewhat based on true events, when a couple of friends woke me up by bursting into my flat tripping on acid. In the song the narrator had work in the morning — that was probably not true. I spent most of this period on the dole. Musically we just thought, “let’s channel the TVPs attempting to be The Who”. I don’t do guitar solos usually but the one on this song is so good I decided to do it twice. It still has too many notes though. The best guitar solo ever is the one on “Boredom” by the Buzzcocks.
Another song also based on true events and referencing quite a few real people. What happens when you don’t get accepted to university or art school, and don’t want to get a job. The technical college is waiting for you. We really did occupy the college overnight in protest at the introduction of Student Loans in the UK as opposed to free education. I can’t remember if it was the guy from Pure or Slam that DJ’d.
“24 Pictures Of You”
A story of a summer friendship and a malfunctioning camera. This song is basically a vehicle for puns about photography. I picture this song happening on the first day of the summer in Kelvingrove Park, when everyone dogs school or leaves work early and the park is a sea of people in their shirtsleeves, eating 99s.
“You Were Seen”
A tale as old as time… a betrayal discovered. This song is one part repeated over and over. Again, pretty much all chorus. I wrote this song walking back from the pub one night drunk. I’ve got a voice memo recording of me singing it into my phone, pretty much exactly as it turned out, but interrupted by hiccups. This was a song me and Phil used to play in Airfix Kits, but it’s pretty timeless innit?
When you move 6,000 miles away but see ghosts around every corner. This was another early Neutrals number. It’s also the first song I’ve ever used an effects pedal on.
Thanks Phil L.
It’s no secret San Francisco is losing a lot of its charm, as the small businesses and dive bars make way to corporate chains and luxury condo complexes. Everything is cool now but you can still find real people at the food court. Fun fact: Everyone thinks I’m singing no one here listens to emo but it’s actually Eno.
“Hate The Summer Of Love”
A reaction to the celebrations around the anniversary of the summer of love in San Francisco; there was something gross about this place which is the most visible representation of the vast imbalance between the haves and the have-nots, patting themselves on the back for some celebration of ‘revolution’ that was really about flares, tie-dye and pot, ignoring any of the positive ideas or true radicalism of the 60s counter-culture.
Riding around on a motorcycle all day in a cool uniform and sick boots just looks fun. I’d be going to work in the morning and seeing these guys that get to ride motorbikes around all day in the California sunshine. Obviously it’s not as simple as that. But I suppose I’m channeling a childhood fascination. CHiPs really was one of my favorite tv shows.
“Coming Up Roses”
A song for a shitty boss. This is another one originally written for Airfix Kits but never officially released. It seemed to fit well with Neutrals so we reworked it a bit and recorded it to the album. As it turns out Phil L doesn’t actually like it so we probably won’t play it live.
Everyone has that one friend who insists on spouting misinformation disguised as facts about Switzerland. The main point is that people use the term ‘Swiss’ as a synonym for ‘neutral’ but Swiss neutrality in World War II is a myth. As the eminently quotable Yummy Fur had it: “Why don’t you listen to Liliput, where punk rock starts and ends?”