Maybe it’s the misty, doleful Scottish breeze; maybe the high density of pedantic, highly talented artists from North of the border; or maybe it’s the weirdly energetic magic that haunts the streets of Glasgow. Whatever it may be: Spinning Coin clearly have their shit together.
It’s no surprise that Orange Juice legend Edwyn Collins took the Glaswegian four-piece under his wing and partly produced their debut album Permo, which was then released by Stephen Pastel, one of the key figures of Scottish independent music. Rightly, they are treasured by those who know them best.
Having seen Spinning Coin live twice – in Brighton and in Berlin – the Quiff can confirm that they’re beyond well-rehearsed. Their music is tighter than a pair of freshly washed hipster jeans, their predilection for precision exemplary – and it’s exactly this sense of rigour that’s manifested on Permo.
Rigour not only in a conventionally musical sense but a narrative one as well. Spinning Coin’s attention to detail encapsulates their ability to tell morally charged, poignant stories that carry political weight while still being personally digestible – such as Money Is A Drug. Jack Mellin’s voice, indignant and energetic, rattles alongside the thrusting, march-like drums, shouting out obstreperous lines that are filled with exasperation and injustice. Accompanied by bassist Rachel Taylor’s dulcet backing vocals in bridge and chorus, it creates a liberating clash that rounds the edges while revealing a simplified equation between rich and poor:
There’s many people that live in luxury/ And there’s many more people that live in misery/ Money is a drug taken by people who think they’re in luck/ When love is all there really is.
Even though Money Is A Drug, along with other songs on the record such as Powerful or Tin, addresses concerns about our society and raises awareness, Spinning Coin’s motivation has never been purely political: “There was never any plan to make this into a political record. Obviously there’s certain tracks, like Money is a Drug, where we can’t deny that they’re political, but that just stems from whatever was on our mind at the time spilling out […] I’d quite like people to make up their own minds about what the songs [are] about as well. Honestly, me and Sean never think about these things too deeply when we’re making and writing music; it’s much more a case of letting it flow, and that goes for the lyrics, too. It’s a case of singing from the heart, so they’re personal, for sure.”, states Mellin.
This contrast seeps through Spinning Coin’s music. They are concerned with both the intimate and the universal, the distant and the close, the melodious and the dissonant. Take a song like Sleepless, a simplistic but beautiful paean to dreaming, to finding a place, a way, where we can continue to hope even in our darkest, insomniac moments. Drawing together desperation and quiet optimism, cleverly juxtaposed, it is both jarring and harmonious:
Take me where the losers go to die/ Take me where the sleepers learn to fly. […] Take me where the losers learn to fly/ Take me where the sleepers go to die.
Musically, the band weave together the jagged discontent of post-punk with the melancholic, melodic introspection of early 90’s indie and the languid, lo-fi slackness of American alt-rock.
Starry Eyes is a polyphonic parade; an affirmative wakening call for more political participation, wrapped in a lax but meticulous guitar sound that gushes out as a rampant solo at its peak. It sounds as if it could have been lifted straight from an early Pavement record, with its discordant guitar and broken drums, with its vocals that always seem like they’re half a second behind the beat. It’s one of those songs which the Quiff was engulfed by from the very first second, savouring each note and every line:
You say things will never change/ But you never ask why/ You say things will never change/ (and) they won’t if you don’t even try/ Let’s do something/ that doesn’t involve getting fucked up in a sense of pride.
Spinning Coin have the rare ability to create a wonderful combination of slack and tight sound which is emphasised by their inconspicuous but diligent and peaceful stage presence. Maybe their ease of mind can be traced back to the Scottish way of life: “Everybody always seems happy when a new band comes along – it’s a good thing. We all work together to put on gigs, and there’s such a wide variety of bands in Glasgow now – it’s a really diverse scene.” It sounds a bit like a fairy tale but maybe this is the Glasgow magic.
Permo was released last November via Geographic Music. You can buy it here.