introduction by tom johnson
photograph by beth chalmers
Arriving quick on the heels of debut album Revision Ballads, released in February of 2019, Glasgow’s Savage Mansion today unveil it’s fleshy and fulsome follow-up in the form of brand new album Weird Country.
Guided by the crooked songwriting of Craig Angus, who fills the space here with sparkling melodies, wonky wordplay, and rabid hooks-a-plenty, the twelve-song collection takes that previous record as its launchpad and leaps into an unconventional space all of its own.
Loaded with extra bite and swagger, Weird Country is a bold new chapter, a fiery burst of indie rock that illuminates all the myriad people and places that inspired it inside its distinct frame.
Ahead of the release tomorrow, via Lost Map, we’re very pleased to share the album in full here today, alongside a track-by-track guide written by Angus. Dig into all of it below right now:
words by craig angus
I guess the themes that run through Weird Country revolve around notions of identity and environment and how the two intersect. Karaoke is pretty much a song about Glasgow, it’s a love song to the city I’ve been in for well over a decade now. It made sense that it was the opening track, it seemed the only way we could open the album. We asked Martha Ffion to add the vocals in the chorus, once we got back up the road. A peach of a singer.
We recorded Weird Country down at Hermitage Works in North London with Chris McCrory (who plays in Catholic Action with Andrew and Jamie), with assistance from Seth Evans – who is a phenomenally talented musician and a great guy too. We were down there for just over a week. It was a very funny, brilliantly intense time. We did all the live tracking over the first weekend, and then the next few days we worked 12-6pm, then left the studio for a few hours so bands could come in and rehearse, and then worked again from 10pm until whenever we had nothing left, and then we slept on the floor and went at it again the next day. I cannot recall camaraderie like it, to be honest. A very memorable and enjoyable time in my life.
TAKING THE FOUR
The four is the bus that takes you closest to my house. Smells like piss mostly, is never on time when you need it to be, is always late when you don’t want it to be, feels like it costs an extra 10p every time you get it. Jason Statham is an English actor and film producer. Typecast as the antihero, he is known for his action-thriller roles and portraying tough, irredeemable, and machiavellian characters.
I’m a journalist whenever someone will pay me enough to do something interesting, and the genesis of this song comes from that side of things. I wrote something a few years ago about the arrival of the Italians in Scotland and the food culture they brought with them (I’m talking ice cream, I’m talking fish and chips). A lot of the stuff I looked into was quite shocking, the sort of hostility people faced coming over, a lot of really violent stuff, a lot of exploitation. If anyone wants tips on good chippies and ice cream places in the Scottish central belt, I’m your man. It’s a passion of mine.
I really, really like this song. Before we went down to London, Andrew and I were working through ideas in my flat, then taking those ideas to the band from there, and this one really benefited from the extra time we spent on it. It changed quite drastically in that time. A much more dynamic and fleet-footed arrangement. This one is clearly indebted to Village Green era Kinks. One of my favourite bands and a big influence. I was actually struggling to finish this one, but the final 5% came together when I was watching Being John Malkovich, in which John Cusack is The Puppeteer. It felt like a good title.
I’ve been fucking around with this chord progression since 2008, for real. I remember trying to write this song when I was 17, just after I moved to the city, with someone in mind, but I never finished it. I always thought it had something though and when we were piecing together this batch of songs, with Wilco and REM records in mind, it seemed like it would fit. On the face of it Merrie is a strange love song about dressing up as your crush’s fiancee but you know, that isn’t an experience I can say I’ve had. It’s allegorical, wanting something that you can’t have, or indeed something that may not exist anywhere other than in your imagination. Love Taylor’s harmonies on this one. Full of ideas, that boy.
BATTLEFIELD BOSS DREAM
We had the drums set up on the Sunday night, had tracked the fifteen songs we’d intended to track, and at that point I was just going through my demos to see if there was anything else we could try while everything was set up to record. Ended up finding this sort of dream pop thing I’d been playing with and let the guys hear it, something clicked so we ended up using the extra time we’d been left with to track this song that night. I didn’t have any words for it. Later on in the week I was walking around Finsbury Park writing down fragments of verses and then just put something down on the penultimate night. It was all very spur of the moment. I absolutely adore Andrew’s guitar playing on this, that moaning slide guitar part. He’s an incredible musician and it’s a pleasure to work with him on this stuff.
We had no idea how this would turn out but it’s got a bit of a glam rock stomp going on and, thinking about the classic album format, was the ideal way to open up for Side B. Again I hadn’t finished the words for it when we went down to record, but this was around the time where I was reading the papers every fucking day, reading the hot air from the likes of Steve Baker and Mark Francois … I don’t care to think about them too much, but at that point they were omnipresent, or certainly felt like they were. I was intrigued by their diet of all you can eat patriotism. I’ve got a lot of fondness for British culture, our artistic traditions, the NHS, fish and chips, but imagine giving that much of a shit about Big Ben. Patriots, though.
SCREAMING SPEED MACHINE
This song is about cars. Range rovers, boy racer subculture, Gran Turismo. There’s a car for every occasion. Cars to intimidate you. Cars as status symbols. Another one that Taylor did some outrageous backing vocals for. He’s a beautiful singer, genuinely.
THERE’S NO TIME TO WASTE
Another love song, this one in particular aimed at specific men in my life who bottle things up. Including myself, at times. From a musical standpoint it’s indebted to Pixies and Frank Black at full throttle. Suicide is a terrible killer of people of my age especially, and we’re all very consious of that. It’s horrible.
The title track, the last song written before we tracked the album. I wanted something like a runaway train, with drums that wouldn’t sound out of place on QOTSA’s Songs For The Deaf, which was something Lewis was all too happy to do. The lyrics are a stream of consciousness ramble, I did try a few rewrites in the studio but nothing really seemed to work, it felt unnatural to remove the original words from the song. It’s tough, that. Sometimes you have to just lean into what you’re doing, what you did, and just roll with it. This is definitely the angriest song on the album, for many reasons. A lot of personal experiences just found their way into it, encounters with football hooligans, bitter restaurateurs. This was around the time of the Windrush scandal and the horror of Grenfell. It’s hard to feel anything positive towards your country when you’ve got that sort of stuff bubbling away.
NOW TO LEVITATE
Along with The Puppeteer, this is another personal favourite. Written in one go, more or less, in a County Down living room, it’s a blissed out contrast to the song that comes before it. Another love song for all the people that get you through despite the chaos we live in. We were playing this lovely old synth called the Jen SX1000 in the studio, I really love the way it lifted the recording. Chris played the synth parts – he did an amazing job of producing the album full stop. We were communicating really well and understood exactly what we wanted to do, with the time constraints we had that was especially important. The title comes from Chris mishearing a lyric, but ‘now’ looks and sounds better than ‘how’, so we kept the erroneous version.
I go through phases of getting quite intensely into reading about certain subjects. More recently it’s been the Troubles in Northern Ireland (and boxing too, strangely) but this time last year it was the Spanish Civil War and the International Brigade. This song is about those who left Scotland to fight fascism. And about how those people were depicted in the media at the time, how all that looks from the present day, and the obvious parallels. We’re living in frightening times but I thought it was an uplifting way to end the album.
‘Weird Country’ is released tomorrow, via Lost Map
Pre-order it here