It feels like it's taken years for this album to be released, and that's because it has. Four years, to be exact. If you've been a fan of the Glasgow folk poppers formally known as Kitty The Lion, you'll know exactly what I mean when I say Deerheart is *long* overdue. But trust me when I say it has definitely been worth the wait as, like a phoenix, they've risen from the ashes of their former selves as Blood Relatives armed with a record that, while possessing all that we loved about them from previous singles and EPs, has a feeling of maturity, showing Anna Meldrum and co to have grown both as musicians and as people over their years together.
One worry that I'm sure many people had was that the début would feature no Kitty The Lion songs at all, the concern that, with a new name, the band had decided to shed their skin and lay to rest all previous material. Luckily that is far from the case here, with not one but four Kitty tracks making a happy appearance, starting with no less than the opener. Now down to just a four piece, the band's signature harmonies are by no means jeopardised, as illustrated clearly by opening track Fowl Mouth where vocals are front and centre all the way through. These harmonies continue throughout the record and sound much more controlled and better executed than ever before, showing the band to have taken time in the studio to get them just right and keep them as a proper stand out aspect of their music.
In saying that, however, when Meldrum's in charge, you definitely know it. Take title track Deerheart, for example, in which her lovely breathy vocals take centre stage, sounding a zillion times more powerful than the girl we heard sing Lion In The Bed all those years ago. With great power comes great responsibility (yeah, I just used the Uncle Ben line, deal with it) and in Bone Idol, Meldrum takes it upon herself to raise awareness of negative and unhealthy body image, pleading with young skinny girls to "get some meat on your bones", whilst creating a neat little pop ditty at the same time.
There's something particularly interesting about Murder of Crows which makes it stand out but it's hard to say exactly what. Like much of Blood Relatives' music, it's got that great driving beat and catchy melodies to boot, but perhaps it's the changing moods, alternate rhythms or more seriously folky aspects of this track which give it its 'je ne sais quoi... Not to mention a cracking little harmonica solo. Dead Hip, on the other hand, is much more the Blood Relatives we know and love, with Meldrum's quirky lyrics, bright shimmering melodies and infectious chorus.
Things get a little slower and more subterranean with the ethereal Cold Fish followed by enchanting ballad Bird Flu (given a new lick of paint since its days as a Kitty set-list staple) and then the bright and perky Duck!... Do you see a pattern emerging here at all? Fowl, deer, crows, fish, bird, duck... This record's track-list is absolutely teeming with wildlife but Meldrum's lyrics are so cleverly conceived that the titles are as far as this nature reserve theme goes. She draws comparisons between both wildlife and real life, which is just one of many reasons why this writer believes her to be one of the most underrated Scottish songwriters of recent times.
As the record comes to a close, Cheek By Jowl excellently displays Meldrum's vocal talent, with only softly plucked guitar and cello accompanying her as she sings of embracing the fear of the future and growing old. But, of course, we wouldn't expect anything less from this gang than to end their début on a high and with The Spit, they do just that. Those glorious harmonies make a reappearance as Meldrum puts a rather poetic spin on family life and every girl's fear of becoming her mother, building up to a magnificent fanfare which is one of many moments on the album that makes you realise why it's taken so bloody long! We can only hope we won't have to wait quite as long for album number two but, until then Deerheart is finally here and, quite frankly, we couldn't be happier with the results.
- Nina Glencross
Blood Relatives - Deerheart is out now on Comets & Cartwheels and is available to buy here and in all good independent record shops.