This ‘Acting Strange’ article was written by Jake Willis, a GIGsoup contributor
Recorded in their uncle’s taxidermy workshop, A Night on the Tiles is the debut EP from Glaswegian folk rocker-cousins Billy and Ali Strange, also known as Acting Strange. The EP is caught in delightfully odd transitions of carefree acoustic rhythms and lyrics, and then punched back into life by strong guitar leads, tambourine driven beats and blaring harmonicas. It is a series of stories revolving around youth and boredom, with a distinct throwback to an era ruled by The Kinks, The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
The EP kicks off with the track ‘Rumble’, a song that lyrically sets the carefree tone of the album whilst also managing to be a fast-paced, folky foot stomper. ‘Rumble’ is Acting Strange’s statement that they are not trying to be chart-smashing rock stars-they just want you to enjoy what they’re putting out there, and for you to know that they don’t really care what you think anyway.
The lyrics of ‘Dreaming Away’ however lose the carelessness so apparent in ‘Rumble’ and instead have the essence of a long, hung-over walk home in the cold; every sight has already been seen, and every previous decision made is one to be regretted. ‘Dreaming Away’ exhibits boredom and discontent with an all too familiar hometown, and a sense of defeat as they sing that ‘my dreams of Paris seem so far’. The longing felt in Strange’s words seem to resonate throughout all instruments. As the guitar leads lose their drive and instead slide their way into sincerity as the Strange boys sing that ‘dreams are all I have now’ with a wistful rhythm guitar accompanying them.
The EP is defined by the lyrics of ‘Oh No’: ‘have you tried just having fun? After all you are pretty young’ and ‘Oh No’ is by far the most ‘fun’ song on the album. Starting with a powerful harmonica, the song is Dylan-esque, that also resembles a soundtrack for a film with run-aways on a freight train and throughout the second verse, it can be heard that the bass has been replaced with barbershop quartet style vocals; a quirky and entertaining take on what can be expected from modern music. It is the most catchy song on the album and despite its sombre lyrics, ‘Oh No’ still manages to leave you with a smile on your face.
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The final song of the EP, ‘Universe Blues’ is by far Acting Strange’s most interesting number, and also the most Beatles-sounding track. With well-executed harmonies, bluesy leads and the most prominent bass on the whole EP, it brings forth a sound not unlike indie band Temples. It’s a rocky song which leaves you with all the attitude you’d expect from a young band trying to break the music scene, and it’s Acting Strange reminder to you that they will be back with more.
The range of tracks, from ‘Rumble’ to ‘Dreaming Away’ shows that Acting Strange are not a one trick pony, attempting to revive the 60’s, but a band with charisma who can produce an EP that is altogether raw, simple and soulful.
A Night on the Tiles is out September 8th via In Black Records.