Strike the Colours – Flock

Haunting pop hooks abound in this continuously inventive 'labour of love' from four veterans of the Scottish music scene.

Album Review by Fraser MacIntyre | 26 Nov 2018
  • Strike the Colours – Flock
Album title: Flock
Artist: Strike the Colours
Label: Deadlight Records
Release date: 30 Nov

Glasgow’s Strike the Colours formed in 2006 and recorded this album (their third) in 2011. A plethora of creative endeavours have prolonged its release until 2018. Drummer-in-demand Jonny Scott recorded with CHVRCHES and The Kills; Graeme Smillie toured with Emma Pollock, who provides backing vocals on Flock alongside Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott; Jenny Reeve formed BDY_PRTS, travelled the world with Arab Strap and featured in Paul Fegan’s acclaimed documentary Where You’re Meant to Be – joining Aidan Moffat at the kitchen table of a new acquaintance for a moving rendition of Wild Mountain Thyme in one of the film’s finest scenes.

Balancing the weighty and varied credentials of each of the band’s members, it would be easy for Flock to sound a little disjointed. Nothing could be further from the truth. On standout Branches the four gel seamlessly, as the track masterfully shifts from a meandering, eerie folk meditation into a ferocious onslaught of chaotic drums and fear-of-God-inducing violin worthy of Godspeed You! Black Emperor or The Bad Seeds (conjuring up an image of Warren Ellis losing his shit while performing this is not a difficult task) before concluding with a tender, piano-led meeting of Reeve and Pollock’s voices: 'There is no point in fighting.'

Produced by Paul Savage (Mogwai, The Twilight Sad), Flock was recorded almost entirely live and retains a feeling of joyous immediacy because of that. Listening to the record unfold almost feels like sitting in on a serene, informal practise session, with clever, minor additions (such as the handclaps found on Old Oak Tree) accentuating songs that thrive when presented in a raw and honest manner. Reeve’s voice can transfix the listener with ease – subtly ethereal on New Snow and free to sour on lead single Aces. Elsewhere, Final Eyes ('Acting with the candour of someone half my age') showcases a formidable rhythm section.

Gothic undertones and haunting pop hooks abound, Flock is an alt-rock record that flirts with folk and harbours a distinctively Scottish ambience – one that will undoubtedly be welcome to followers of There Will Be Fireworks and Idlewild (whom Reeve has performed with on many occasions). The album is continuously inventive, surprising and emotive ('Do you ever feel like I do / Full up but wanting more'), and its spine-tingling title-track finds four veterans of the Scottish music scene ably showcasing why they are so highly regarded – and therefore so busy – that it has taken them seven years to find time to release what they have described as a "labour of love."

Listen to: Flock, Branches, New Snow