60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #20


Aztec Camera- High Land, Hard Rain (1983)

Unlike Arab Strap, I know this one got a lot of traction when written in July 2019.  Indeed, I’m going to include what a number of you said in the comments section at the time, meaning you don’t, unless you really want to, feel any obligation to come in again this time around!

“Notwithstanding that some of the production has dated somewhat there surely can be no counter-arguments to the motion that ‘The first Aztec Camera LP is one of the greatest albums in Scottish history’.

High Land, Hard Rain is packed with ridiculously catchy and memorable tunes and some wonderfully observant lyrics, many of which were written before Roddy Frame had reached his 18th birthday. He was also astute enough to recognise that the sublime We Could Send Letters deserved a far better fate than to wither as a b-side on an obscure and hard-to-find 45 on Postcard Records, and in doing so he takes what was already a very special song and turns it into something as beautiful as the sun going down of a late June evening off the west coast of Scotland. The album version has a slightly slower tempo than the Postcard version which enables the song to breathe a little bit more, and at almost a minute longer in length, it accommodates a cracking guitar solo:-

“The album yielded two hit and popular singles in Oblivious (still a staple part of indie-discos the world over some 40 years on) and Walk Out To Winter (although the remix version released as a 45 is one of those that hasn’t aged as well as others).

“The track, however, I find myself most returning to is the one from which a portion of lyric was lifted to give the album its title:-

mp3 : Aztec Camera – The Boy Wonders

“A joyous celebration of youth with that fearless take on things that you have in your teenage years….it’s just that Roddy was far more capable of articulating it than any of us. It’s also an absolute floor-filler with a hi-tempo tune that I feel is akin to one of those ceilidh number that leave you breathless at the end of the set dance.

And just when you need a perfect come down number, there’s the acoustic number that closes everything off:-

“Allegedly named after a pub in East Kilbride whose staff weren’t that fussed about serving underage drinkers…………

Nic Ros : Agree 100% with every word. Boy Wonder indeed. Even referred to Strummer.

Jacques : Five stars

Flimflamfan : I agree entirely. An LP that was played and played and played and played. It still is.  I couldn’t count the number of times Down the Dip graced the close of side 2 of my c90 compilation tapes. Ah.

The definition of a ‘classic’ LP

Lorne Thomson : The Eastenders Doof Doof’s on We Could Send Letters is the only bad moment on it.

Gavin O’Neill : I grew up in Napa, California, and this album probably defined my early teen boyhood more than any other. It got me young and in the heart and I love it to this day. Wish we could see the non-Postcard, pre-HLHR stuff.

Alex : How many records can you think of that both musically and lyrically exudes some of the sheer youthful joy of being alive, and in it’s melodic exuberance has a genuine positive influence on raising your spirits ? That can get you wrapped up in teenage dramas of the importance of which badges adorn your jacket, which punk rock stars posters you remove from your wall, relatives commenting on how you’ve grown since they last saw you, first live, first sex, stolen wine, smashing bottles in streets just for the hell of it, and do it in such a natural, unaffected, believable manner that you care about and relate to the protagonist in these vignettes from remembered experiences in your own life?

This is genuinely the only one I can think of. It is a great, great record.

It is not without it’s darker themes as well, the often quoted above We Could Send Letters obviously dealing with the effects of heavy drug addiction. Yes, it is absolutely spooky how a 17 or whatever year old penned these lyrics that are more real, and moving than, say Neil Young’s The Needle and the Damage Done. Maybe coming from East Kilbride had something to do with that of course.

I too would love for the early material to be collected, curated and released. Roddy’s early songs totally deserve that treatment. It breaks my heart that Just Like Gold in particular is not available anywhere.

A wee footnote is that, having made the ultimate jangly indie pop record, Aztec Camera moved on immediately. Roddy was simply too talented to stay in the guise of the fringed jacket wearing hipster teenage seer for long, but I bet 90% of the people who cherish this LP secretly wish he had.

Friend Of Rachel Worth : Totally missed we could send letters was about drug addition ! Going to relisten as I took it very literally always thought it was about a girl going a way to uni whilst the boy stays at home

Echorich: No argument here! And I have to agree with Alex, that while it would have been nice for Frame to explore the jangle a bit more, the fact he was satisfied to move one only enhanced his importance in my mind.

The Swede: You’ll hear no arguments from me either.


7 thoughts on “60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #20

  1. What everyone else has said and more. Much more.

    Not surprised to see this grace your top 60.

  2. I’m another one who didnt get We Could Send Letters was about drugs.
    40 years of missing the point.
    My wife does say i am naive.

  3. Going to have to give the LP a good listen because the only song I remember is ‘Oblivious.’ But what a song!

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