Nearly 40 years after the release of their debut Sisters, Glasgow legends The Bluebells find themselves in the 21st century recording all new material for the official second album. Most known for their early 80’s singles Cath, I’m Falling and the iconic Young at Heart, we caught the three founding members Robert ‘Bobby Bluebell’ Hodgens (The Poems), McCluskey Brothers Ken and David McCluskey alongside former bandmate Russell Irvine are back with a brand new album. Released on 28th April 2023 by indie patron based label Last Night From Glasgow the 12 track LP aptly titled The Bluebells in The 21st Century an uplifting collection of songs full of heart, reflection and good ol’ nostalgia.
With the huge revival in vinyl sales over the past few years the band re-released their 1984 album Sisters in 2021 with Last Night From Glasgow which was met with welcoming response from fans young and old keen to get their hands on the lost recordings. On the back of the success they were asked to record a new album and The Bluebells in the 21st Century was born. Recorded over 5 weeks at Glasgow’s Green Door Studios the album was mixed and mastered by producer Paul McGeechan. Visual designer Jim Lambie – who the band met years ago through his band The Boy Hairdressers who later went on to become Teenage Fanclub – designed the contemporary eye catching album cover. Lead vocalist and founding member Ken McCluskey joined us for a chat and filled us in on the bands journey to album number two which you can read here
There’s a lot going on in this album. Starting with the album opener is the traditional bluesy rock track Daddy Was an Engineer when then leads into the doo wop inspired soulful Gone Tomorrow. Orienteering keeps with the up buoyant rock n roll ambience with its catchy melodies, pretty harmonies and resonating lyrics.
“My father walked out me, when I was seven. Never knew my mother at all, she went to junkie heaven”Orienteering – The Bluebells
More traditional ballads such as The Boy Who Slipped Away and warming Blue Train are a welcome addition to the overall album pace. But my close favourite has to be the beautifully sentimental Stonehouse Violets. With lines such as “I kissed your face in Dunnipace” Stonehouse Violets has to be the most romantic song written about grassroots football ever.
The orchestration of Beautiful Mess is stunning. The string accompaniment alongside the effortless vocal harmony sound is an uplifting moment that brings the first half on the album to a climatic high which as a listener leaves you wanting more.
On the flip side of the album the heavier Anyone Can Be a Buzzcock brings out the punk rock side of the band. An ode to the iconic nights spent at Glasgow’s now demolished Apollo theatre during the 1970’s/early 80’s, Buzzcock’s is draped in that feel good wistfulness of youth.
But don’t be fooled to think that The Bluebells are the same band as they were 40 years ago. This album is a cherry picking of familiar sounds with 21st century themes . Single releases like The Ballad of the Bells with its catchy anthemic chorus “If you want more” could have been recorded by any young rock band in Glasgow right now and sound just as good as it does here.
Disneyland in Rock ‘n’ Roll is another beautiful harmonising ballad. With it’s synth undertones it collates a curiously captivating ambience. Living out Loud is a more traditionally crafted song which reflects The McCluskey Brothers writing style whilst keeping the rockier edge which makes it The Bluebells.
The album ends with the track She Rises. Like its title, She Rises gently builds momentum which is gradually fades away which marks the end of the revival of Scotland’s biggest comeback album of 2023 so far.
Available from Last Night From Glasgow on both vinyl and CD, the record can be found across the country in all good independent record stores. The album with bonus track Glasgow is a Rainbow can listened digitally on most major streaming services.