A mature and reflective album with a gilded sunshine rock and pop coating.
Scotland is generally considered by most intelligent folk as the second-best place on earth to produce sun-kissed jangle rock and pop after California, and most of them would point to Teenage Fanclub to prove their point. Many others might however suggest that Glasgow’s Daniel Wylie has an equal claim to be Scotland’s (indeed, the UK’s) premier exponent of Byrds/Neil Young/CSN&Y influenced sounds, going back to his debut with the Cosmic Rough Riders in the late 90’s. ‘Atoms And Energy’ cements this view with Wylie delivering a solid set of bittersweet songs replete with harmonies and flurries of guitars paying tribute to the heyday of the sunshine state while remaining attuned to this modern world.
According to Wylie, the album was originally supposed to be a back to roots acoustic affair but having gone into Glasgow’s La Chunky studios with co-producer Johnny Smillie, the songs started to grow arms and legs with Neil Sturgeon and Stu Kidd adding their parts. Then covid hit and recording stopped. When they could return to work, Smillie, in the studio, worked out arrangements and sent them to Wylie and together they finally assembled the finished album. For such a patchwork background, it has to be said that the album is supremely well-tailored and at times, quite intricate. Take, for example, the elaborate Brian Wilson/ Curt Boettcher influenced vocal harmony section which punctuates the otherwise baleful ‘The Bruises And The Blood’ which finds Wylie railing against domestic violence. It’s a sunny song with a dark heart and several songs here persevere in a similar manner.
‘Heaven’s Waiting Room’ is a glorious rush of twinkling acoustic guitars darting here and there, garnished with more harmonies. It recalls those CSN&Y soundalikes, America (which is, in fact, no bad thing) but again, listen to the words and Wylie is singing about his life emptying out. Youthful friends vanish as one gets into a rut with the only certainty being that knock-knock of the grim reaper. The Reaper also features in ‘God Is Nowhere’ but he’s nothing compared to the superb delivery and arrangement cooked up by Wylie and Smillie. Think of The Isley Brothers’ jasmine scented cover of ‘Summer Breeze’ with Ernie Isley’s gorgeously cool fuzzed guitar and then consider the idea that some guys from Glasgow might come up with something as good. Done that? Well here it is.
Other influences feature as when Wylie offers up the plaintive sing-along, ‘Our Love Will Never Die’ which harks back to Neil Young circa ‘After The Goldrush’ while ‘Ruth The Truth’ surely has some early REM DNA in its bloodline. There’s even a hint of combos such as The Chocolate Watchband on the delicious psychedelia of ‘Listen To The Sounds Of the Rain’, an ecologic love song. ‘Saddle Up The Horses’ closes the album on an autobiographical note as Wylie recalls childhood memories of playing at cowboys and Indians before accepting, as in the earlier ‘Heaven’s Waiting Room’, that eventually, we are all disillusioned.
‘Atoms And Energy’ shows that Daniel Wylie remains a force to consider. It’s a mature and reflective album which, at times, soars. That kid on the album cover might have wanted to grow up to be a cowboy but, hopefully, being acclaimed as one of our best purveyors of jangled and spangled rock’n’roll is of some comfort to him.