Clare Harris, Big Issue, 27.5.04

A cynic might say that Anstruther-based Fence Records have carved themselves a nice niche market in twee. But I’m no cynic. The latest release from the ubiquitous collective’s Picket Fence series is a selection of songs from Edinburgh’s Northern Alliance. These guys made a small but accomplished splash with their self-released EP, Hope in Little Things. Disaster For Scotland is similarly compact – restrained patterns of guitar, strings, organ and maybe even a harpsichord weave themselves into agreeable monotone vocals. Standout track ‘Say Hello to the Dolomite Hills’ builds a simple paean to melancholia, followed by the equally spartan ‘Year of the Underdog’. Northern Alliance certainly don’t try and do too much here – they must have listened when their music teacher told them that repetition is the key to composing a good piece of music. Sound advice, it appears, and there’s something innately Scottish about this record (apart from the title); it’s in the quiet intensity, coupled with a sense that nothing really matters too much. When they sing “Let’s form a union”, it sounds less a battle cry than a drunken meandering down the local pub. Twee? Far from it.

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