Glasgow-based alt-rockers, Savage Mansion, release their third album on Lost Map Records, on February 25th 2022.
When 2020 ground to a halt, it could have been the end for Savage Mansion. With an album release (the critically acclaimed 'Weird Country') overshadowed by a state of collective panic, a litany of cancelled tour dates, and plans not so much put on the backburner as thrown out the window of a van, somewhere between Glasgow and Birmingham.
Instead, with the excellent 'Golden Mountain, Here I Come' scheduled for release in February 2022 on Lost Map Records, Savage Mansion have doubled down, solidifying their reputation as one of Scotland’s (and the UK’s) most prolific emerging guitar bands and as a hardworking collective drawing from a diverse palette of musical and literary influences. Re-emerging as a five-piece with Craig Angus (vocals, guitar), Andrew Macpherson (guitar), Beth Chalmers (keys), Jamie Dubber (bass) and Lewis Orr (drums), Golden Mountain, Here I Come is a record that’s hook-laden, poignant, and cryptic. It’s indie rock that’s both an instant feast for the senses and a rich tapestry of sounds and words to pore over and savour.
‘It could be our first record as a band,’ says Angus. ‘In many ways it is, to the extent that we toyed with changing the name of the band. But you forget it's a fucking pain naming a band in the first place, so we stuck with it.
Recorded with the band’s live engineer Ross McGowan (Kaputt, Dananananaykroyd) at Chime Studio in Glasgow, the more collaborative of the band’s third album is palpable. ‘It was the first record we made with Beth on keys,’ Angus says, ‘so there were five people actively having a say about musical direction, whereas in the past the songs were 80 to 90% fully formed before they got to rehearsal rooms. We reworked a lot of the songs beyond recognition this time. I had to let go of a lot of the expectations I had, and it’s a stronger body of work as a consequence, more adventurous.’
It’s that spirit that’s interwoven throughout the record, starting with the album title. Taken from a line in the first completed song ‘Jesus Is Pale’, Angus comments on the idea behind the name. ‘It was something that came to me at work one day, I used to scrawl ideas on bits of paper as I went about my business, and the idea of ‘now climbing golden mountain’ appealed to me looking back through notes. It felt a little bit like something you’d find in sci-fi or fantasy fiction maybe. And I like the idea of a destination or landmark being the centrepiece of a work. Like the way Dylan used Highway 61 as a frame to explore a specific time.’
The album began life as a fictional travelogue, still evident on the ‘The Black Cat’ where a surreal hitchhiking narrative is weaved over a musical soundscape that’s influenced by krautrock grooves as much as country sensibilities. ‘Over time golden mountain became a placeholder for something else,’ Angus says, ‘a looser destination, sometimes a physical place, sometimes a mental state. I think a lot of that was to do with being confined to one room, more or less, for months on end. You’re living in this stasis, with no real grasp on how long it’ll last, so a lot of living becomes imagined.’
The themes are apparent from the off. Opening track and lead single ‘Life More Abundant’ rolls like a runaway train, all chugging guitars and rapid vocal delivery, as an energised narrator thrillingly rejects tired conventions and seeks a new way of life. In the funk inspired standout ‘The Crucible’, which feels as much indebted to James Brown as it is garage rock, the central character rediscovers their own agency in real time. By the rousing climax of ‘Plans’, a full on revolt is brewing.
It’s a fresh musical direction for the group too, a new wave sound inspired by The B52s and Elvis Costello as much as the garage rock Parquet Courts and The Replacements. Saxophone and clarinet are supplied courtesy of Stephen ‘Sweet Baboo’ Black (Cate Le Bon, Aldous Harding). ‘We worked on the arrangements together over zoom, back when leaving the house was still a rare thing,’ says Angus. ‘I’m not sure we’d have tried working remotely like that in normal times, so I’m oddly grateful for the strange circumstances. His playing really lifts everything, and it’s hard to imagine the album without those contributions, now.’
'Golden Mountain, Here I Come' is a triumphant comeback from Savage Mansion. While the new material features the same razor-sharp songwriting, melodic intertwining guitars and close harmonies, it's the artistic focus that elevates the band to a whole new level. The DIY, lo-fi ethos remains but the ambition is undimmed, the output infectious.