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Aberfeldy

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
4 stars
When Aberfeldy front-man Riley Briggs lost both a record label and some crucial members of his band following two albums of classically crafted grown-up pop, some thought the group would implode completely. Eighteen months on, Briggs hasn’t so much reinvented Aberfeldy as reinvigorated the band’s existing template. There’s a new duo of female multi-instrumentalist vocal foils playing keyboards that still sound lifted from a 1970s science programme. There’s also Chris Bradley adding weight on acoustic guitar, which allows Briggs to go a little bit Peter Frampton if he chooses.

What’s clear most of all through tonight’s selections of material old and new is that Briggs’ commercial sensibilities and way with a lyric should by rights see him hailed as one of the country’s cleverest song-writers. New single Claire, a homage to a complaining neighbour, is up there with the Difford and Tilbrook back catalogue, Denial may be the best break-up song since Prefab Sprout’s When Love Breaks Down, while Malcolm, co-written “with the daughter of the saxophonist from Van der Graaf Generator,” is a knowingly odd love story set to an oriental country twang.

Elsewhere, Uptight is a dead ringer for Lionel Ritchie’s All Night Long, while an irony free take on Chris De Burgh’s A Spaceman Came Travelling sits neatly next to Briggs’ own extra-terrestrial hymn, Heliopolis By Night, the opening of which tonight threatens to lurch into Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. With support band The Gillyflowers, led by the wonderful Kirsten Adamson on Maria McKee-like vocals, joining in on a rousing version of Shakin’ Stevens’ Merry Christmas, Everyone, Aberfeldy are clearly back in the saddle and should be taken very seriously indeed.

The Herald, December 26th 2008

ends

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