Today I’m going to write about a group who have been recording and releasing music for twenty years. During the last twenty years, this Glasgow band have produced some beautiful melodic pop music, which has been influenced by groups such as the Beach Boys, Big Star and Big Star. When you listen to their music, it’s full hooks and harmonies, and has a timeless, classic quality. The group this article is about, are The Pearlfishers, and the album, their 1999 release The Young Picknickers.

Since The Pearlfishers were formed, they have produced numerous EPs, singles and albums. The Young Picknickers was their third album, the follow-up to 1993’s Za Za’s Garden, and 1997‘s The Strange Underworld of The Tall Poppies. Since then, they’ve released four further albums, Across the Milky Way in 2001, Sky Meadows in 2003, A Sunflower At Christmas in 2004 and Up With the Larks in 2007. 

David Scott is the driving force behind The Pearlfishers, he writes the lyrics and music and is a talented multi-instrumentalist. On The Young Picknickers, as well as singing the lead vocal, he plays piano, guitars, bass, percussion and autoharp. This doesn’t mean that The Pearlfishers are a one man band. Quite the opposite. Brian McAlpine has always played a big part in the group’s success. Like Scott, McAlpine is a multitalented musician. He plays piano, organ, guitars and percussion on the album. Although Scott and McAlpine are perceived as the two main members of the group, other musicians play an important part in the group’s sound. On The Young Picknickers, Jim Gash plays drums and percussion, Deepak Bahl plays bass, Gabriel Telerman guitars and Amy Geddes plays fiddles. Other musicians play on some tracks, including Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake. 

Having told you about the group’s background, I’ll now tell you about The Pealfishers album, The Young Picknickers. The album begins with We’re Gonna Save the Summer. When the song starts, the sound is loud and bright. The song just bursts into life, and when Scott sings the vocals the rest of the group sing tight vocal harmonies, reminiscent of the Beach Boys. Behind Scott’s vocal, the guitars chime, reminding me of Big Star. It’s a great song to the start the album, not only well sung and played, but featuring some wonderful lyrics. 

Like many of The Pearlfisher’s songs, the lyrics are like mini-dramas, they tell a story. This is the case with An Ordinary Day In the Suburbs. The song begins with a piano playing and David Scott singing. He has a good voice, and sings the lyrics well, never resorting to vocal gymnastics or faux mid-Atlantic accents. This means you concentrate on the lyrics, which tell a tale of suburban romance. This track has a good arrangement, one that although it features a large number of instruments, never sounds cluttered. All of these instruments combine wonderfully, to produce a great track.

We’ll Get By starts with piano and Scott singing. You get the feeling he’s building up the drama, at the start.  He is. On this track, Scott’s vocal is brilliant. The rest of the band provide a tight backing track. It’s an arrangement that owes much to another of the group’s influences Bacharach and David. Parts of the arrangement, have a real retro feel, especially the trumpet solo, and the piano playing. This track transports you wonderfully back to another era.

Blue December is a much more subdued track. It doesn’t have the uptempo feel of many of the group’s other tracks. What it does have is some lovely lyrics, lyrics which Scott sings accompanied only by a piano. Again, the song sounds as if it doesn’t belong on an album from the 1990s. Instead, you feel it belongs on an album from the 1950s’. Having said that, Scott’s vocal is full of character, his rendition is almost heartfelt. This is made all the better by him not trying to disguise his voice. He possesses a good voice, and sings the song well.

After the more subdued Blue December, the tempo increases, and you’ll hear a slice of joyous pop perfection with You Justify My Life. This is easily one of the album’s highlights and one of The Pearlfishers best songs. From the opening bars, when the drums and piano play, then Scott sings, you realize that this is an outstanding track.   It’s a song that’s laden with hooks and harmonies aplenty, its infectious quality draws you in, and after the song ends you find yourself pressing repeat, and luxuriating in its beauty. The lyrics have a lovely sentiment, the arrangement is one of the best on the album, and the eclectic selection of instruments combine masterfully with Scott’s vocal to produce a mini-masterpiece.

Battersea Bardot begins with an autoharp playing, it meanders melodically and when it stops, Scott sings the vocal, backed by an organ. When Scott sings, he sings about a love affair, and falling head over heels in love. These lyrics have a really strong narrative, and allow Scott to sing what’s ostensibly a short story in just under three minutes. Much of the sound on this track has a real retro sound, the autoharp and organ, even the drums. Like other songs on the album, they’ve been influenced by artists from the past. This is no bad thing, as Battersea Bardot is a good track, one very different from its predecessor You Justify My Life.

When The Young Picknickers starts, the sound again is retro. It’s an instrumental track, which breaks up the flow of the album nicely. The track meanders slowly along a keyboards playing beautifully. There are some lovely subtle key changes, that mean the track flows gently, melodically with a gorgeous sweet sound. This is a lovely track, one that improves with every listen.

As soon as you hear Scott singing on Once There Was A Man, what you notice straight away, is his voice is much higher. This doesn’t mean that he’s having to force his vocal, not at all. The change in style in necessary to bring out the best in the song. By changing his vocal style he does this perfectly, and highlights some trademark quality vocals. Another change is the much fuller sound on this track, which is very different from other tracks. It’s no bad thing, as the band have reserved a great performance for this track, which includes some sweet vocal harmonies to back-up Scott’s vocal. What The Pearlfishers have ended up with, a great sounding track, that’s very different to others on the album.

After a real change in style, The Pearlfishers return with a beautiful slow track, one of the album’s highlights. Over and Over has some lovely romantic lyrics, which David Scott sings beautifully. His voice is back to normal, it sounds delicate, and his rendition of the lyrics is heartfelt, as if they’re personal, and mean something to him. The arrangement is subtle, understated, and allows Scott to take centre-stage when he sings those beautiful lyrics. Quite simply, a gorgeous track.

Every Day I Read the Stars sees another change in style and tempo. This is a much more uptempo song, and sees The Pearlfishers sound not unlike the Teenage Fanclub, whose Norman Blake guests on the album. When the song starts it deceives you, because it starts relatively slowly. Then, suddenly all change, the song opens up, and there are glimpses of 1960s’ sunshine pop. The guitars on the track chime and jangle, adding to this retro sound. There are some really tight vocal harmonies during the track, which are a perfect foil for David Scott’s vocal. The overall effect, is glorious, and it’s a track with a feel-good factor, one that’ll brighten your day, whenever you hear it.

Again, the tempo falls with Strawberries In the Snow, a song about relationships and love, and a song with some really good lyrics, which are tinged in sadness, and designed to tug at your heartstrings. The arrangement is perfect for the song, it’s subtle, almost understated, and never threatens to overpower the vocal. When you hear the arrangement, it reminds me of some of The Beatles arrangements on their slower songs. This is another lovely song, one that demonstrates David Scott’s talents as songwriter.

The final track on The Young Picknickers is Stella Painted Joy, is a tale of youthful relationships and wanting to grow up quickly. It’s a dichotomy of a song. One part youthful exuberance and borderline bawdy lyrics, the other part much more mature lyrics, beautiful melodies and harmonies. Personally, I much prefer the second part of the song, it shows a gentle, thoughtful and mature side of David Scott. The first part always makes me smile, and although the lyrics well written, to me, they slightly detract from the second part of the song. However, when you view the song as a whole, it works, the song is like life, growing out of the youthful exuberance of the type of lyrics of the first part of the song, maturing, and being able to write something so complex and moving, as the second part of the song. For me, the second part of the song is a thing of beauty, the type of thing you’d expect Brian Wilson in his prime to write. 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing about The Pearlfishers, I’ve long been a fan of their wonderful music, music that deserves to be heard by a much wider audience than it is. In Brian Scott, you have a talented songwriter and musician, capable of writing and singing some brilliant songs. Some of these songs are beautiful love songs, others a glorious slice of pop perfection. In his songs, he pays homage to some of the most talented musicians and songwriters from the past. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach influencing his music. At other times, you’ll hear Big Star and The Byrds. All of these artists, have influenced his music. Like I said at the start of this article, The Pearlfishers are not just a one man band. There’s more to them than David Scott. This is apparent on The Young Picknickers, where every member of the band, and the various guest artists, all play their part in making this a great album. There is not a bad song on the album, an album that has many different sounds and styles. The Pearlfishers music is timeless, it’s full of melodies and harmonies, and features an eclectic selection of instruments combining to produce some glorious music. If you’ve never heard their music, you really should buy this album, as this to me, is one of their best albums. It’s an album that once you’ve heard it, you’ll fall in love with their music, and find yourself listening to it over and over again. Standout Tracks: An Ordinary Day In the Suburbs, You Justify My Life, Over and Over and Every Day I Read the Stars.


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