Q Without U
Shut Up! I Invented You
Smalltown America Records
By Kevin Hakansson
Q Without U might be a troubling phrase for those playing Scrabble, but for fans of British pop rock, it represents a breath of fresh air. Comprised of four lads from Glasgow, Scotland, Q Without U is the latest in a line of UK pop rockers, having developed a relaxed sound that’s eclectic enough to garner favorable peer comparisons, but original enough to conclude that there’s a definite breadth to the band’s influences.
Though they’ve been troubadoring around the UK for a few years now, Shut up! I Invented You is Q Without U’s first full-length release. After the band’s comically title debut opens with a deceivingly trippy intro track (“Invented…”), QWU quickly establish themselves as quaint melody makers. On “The Deficit Model,” reverberant guitars and quaint synth lines drive the band’s charmingly low-key vocals. Lead singer Tam Killean doesn’t hide his brogue very well, but not to worry; it’s more charming than it is obnoxious.
“Deficit” is the first of a few tunes on Shut Up whose unabashed twee pop will drive listeners running for their Smiths’ vinyl collection. The appropriately titled “Reluctant Recursive” is a shy head-bopper that makes one wonder if QWU, whose name is reportedly a reference to The Simpsons, just might be the bastard child of Duran Duran and Teenage Fanclub. “Lefthandright” showcases more of Killean’s seductive vocals in a fashion that would make Belle and Sebastian proud.
QWU, who have evidently received their fair share of guff from fans of American rockers Q & Not U, prove themselves fans of a good melody on their first time out. While the chorus of “Teeth of the Town” features another of Killean’s excellent vocal choruses, the song is made distinctive by a particularly melodic trumpet. The brass returns to provide the lead melody on “Licking Batteries,” while the quality of the trumpet playing is workmanlike at best, the melody it plays is hard to shake.
Glasgow isn’t typically associated with great pop music, but a look at a list of popular Scottish bands shows some surprising depth. From Simple Minds, Primal Scream, and The Jesus and Mary Chain to Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol and the Fratellis, a lot of bands that may be generically considered “British” are actually Scottish. Appropriately enough, I made the same generalization about Q Without U earlier in this very review. Whether referred to as British or the accurate Scottish, it appears that Q Without You just might have what it takes to someday be mentioned in the same breath as some of their Glaswegian predecessors.