Music » CD Reviews

The Pearlfishers

Up With the Larks (Marina)



Over the past 20 years Scotland has treated us to some of the very best power pop and indie jangle known to man. The Pastels, Vaselines, and Teenage Fanclub all hail from the land of kilts and haggis. You can add the Pearlfishers to that list. Since 1989, singer-songwriter David Scott and his ever-rotating backing band have crafted five albums full of Beach Boys-inspired twee. In the process, Scott's songcraft has evolved from lo-fi interpretation of classic '60s pop to basically the real thing. That's quite a development in an era when most pop composers who dream of being Brian Wilson — from the Shins' James Mercer to Kurt Heasley of the Lilys — can't shake the lingering curse of punk: amateurish songwriting and ham-fisted musicianship.

On the ornate Up With the Larks, Scott outdoes his anachronistic self. With production help from Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake, he peels away 40 years of pop history, picking up where Wilson and Van Dyke Parks left off. Both "With You on My Mind" and "The Umbrellas of Shibuya" are rays of California sunshine warming the inner corridors of Tin Pan Alley. Still, all the oboes, strings, airy harmonies, and delicately tickled ivories can get a bit too precious. "Fighting Fire With Flowers" and "Blue Riders on the Range" sound like straight-up inspirational music from alt-Christian dork Michael W. Smith. Then again, Brian Wilson thought he was writing teenage symphonies to God.

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