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Glasvegas: S/T- (Album Review)

Scottish quartet Glasvegas has turned out what ought to be one downer of a first record.

The group’s self-titled debut, out today on Columbia, is packed full of songs about death and despair, which meld neatly with the sardonic pun of the Glasgow band’s name. Yet thanks to a certain screw-it attitude and massive, enveloping soundscapes, “Glasvegas” is a deeply engrossing and relentlessly catchy introduction to a group that’s hyped enough in Britain to have already generated plenty of backlash.

Most of these songs rise to sweeping, atmospheric heights, full of clanging guitars and resonant percussion: opener “Flowers and Football Tops” churns with layers of guitar, and there’s a humid snap to the drums on “S.A.D. Light.”

Singer James Allan has an expansive, tuneful voice, and a Scottish brogue so thick it’s often impenetrable. Even so, he ably communicates the compassion of the social worker offering hope to a despondent charge on the soaring “Geraldine,” and makes clear enough what’s troubling him on the rueful “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry.”

There’s a plaintive current running through this record, but Glasvegas balances it with unexpected touches — who else is writing booming Brit-pop songs about kindhearted social workers? — and with more than a little defiance as Allan lashes out at an absentee father on the wrenching “Daddy’s Gone” and stands up to a bully on “Go Square Go” over adrenaline-laced drums.

Glasvegas formed in 2003, which means this first record was a long time coming — time the musicians clearly spent developing into a band capable of producing a debut of such rare depth and emotion.