A completely new name to me, I have to admit, I was drawn to this release by the interesting sounding title. ‘Still Life With Machine Gun’ is one of those marvellously off-kilter phrases which piques the interest, and even the band name My Glass World is sufficiently thought-provoking to make one wonder whether this is going to be some kind of earnest prog rock album. Well, wonder no more. It isn’t. Not at all. What it IS, however, is a very enjoyable listen to say the least, even if it is a little difficult to pin down in terms of genre.
Essentially, My Glass World is a duo, with Scottish songwriter Jamie Telford joined by another multi-instrumentalist Sean Read, but there is a small cast of other supporting musicians joining the pair in what amounts to a sort of collective rather than a band as such. Kind of a modern-day, UK Steely Dan, in a way. At least, in terms of the collective structure, but not so much the music. If I was to pick one name as a sort of comparative touchstone to this material, it would perhaps be Graham Parker, whose sharp, tight songs recorded with The Rumour find something of a resonance in many of the punchy, soulful and often lyrically acerbic tracks here. Nowhere is this more evident than the strident opener On The Ground, with Read’s horns accentuating the Rumour comparison. The second and fourth songs, Everything Must Go and Step Right Up also score a home run in a similar ballpark, but of the most note to me is the third track, an unexpected cover of Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes, which is astonishingly effective in the way it deconstructs the original and, shorn of the dated early ’80s production tricks that the original is slightly hampered by, manages to tease the lyric out to greater effect, and in many ways unwraps the song’s true potential. It’s one of the best Bowie covers I’ve heard, for sure. The handgun / gun control message of the title track and the lyrically powerful When Everything Closes are another pair of winners, though it must be said that the album is slightly front-loaded with much of the best material, as later songs like The Kings Of Everything and Another Piece Of Plastic don’t have quite that same sharp focus.
Having said that, however, the album closes on a real high with the final, eleventh track, the fascinatingly named Half Of The Known Universe Is Missing, Genuinely uplifting and brilliantly arranged, the song sees the album off with a major triumph, encouraging the listener (or at least this one) to start again and see what other delights the songs may begin to reveal. In the final analysis, the track sequencing works extremely well from that point of view.
Is this a major work which will feature in my top albums of the year list? Perhaps not, but it’s certainly more than good enough to keep an eye on My Glass World to see where they go next. As long as they can lay their hands on that other half on the known universe first, of course…