Bernhard Bessing, Is This Music?, Summer 2004

Hurrah. Just in time for Euro 2004, a timely reminder of where the Scottish backslide really started which will show why Scots will console themselves with cheering on France and Croatia. Our national football team has never recovered from the Argentine debacle which coincided with the fall from grace of the Bay City Rollers (even readers not born then have this passed down in whispered tones, or sense it via some genetic imprint). The problem with Scottish football? It’s often put down to having ready access to gameboys, the internet and drugs, perhaps all at once. Anyone else noticed that our international ratings zenith has coincided with our sudden rise in world rankings music-wise? Northern Alliance’s fantastic album is a symptom of the problem – when they should have been kicking a ball round the cobbled streets of Leith they were clearly making lazy, tear-stained songs. ‘Patron Saint of Sore Throats’ lumbers like Steve Nicol towards an open Uruguayan goal, while ‘Preston Falls’ barely makes it out the tunnel, displaying a sense of urgency akin to that of Alan Hansen. The dazed and confused ‘Let’s Form a Union’ takes the mood down a further notch, a sleepwalk through a daydream, like Alan Rough admiring a Cubillas free kick from afar. By the time they cover ‘Ally’s Tartan Army’ – yes, the Andy Cameron battle cry – sorrows have been so drowned that the song barely reaches the second verse, never mind the stage. Don’t get me wrong, Disaster for Scotland is at times a beautiful album but, like its subject matter, don’t expect those tears to be ones of joy.

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