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Glasvegas at Bottom Lounge | Concert preview

After an emotional breakdown, James Allan and Glasvegas return with a gutting, shimmering, sad and elating sophomore album. Goldfish not included.

Photograph: Ben "Pip" Seed
Glasvegas

When Glasvegas last passed through town, promoting its sad and grandiose debut album, I chatted with frontman James Allan over the phone. I think. The singer was exhausted, congested, speaking in his goopy Glaswegian accent and unintelligible.

Turns out, I caught Allan in an epically bad moment of his life. His buzzed-about Scottish band was crumbling under the pressure to be the next Oasis and unite the British working class in song. Allan began carrying a bowl with two goldfish that his sister and manager Denise had given him. He took the fish to the Lincoln Park Zoo and later sang Carpenters songs to them in the bar of his Chicago hotel. That’s what stress can do. Though, undoubtedly, that “Close to You” cover sounded lovely. His voice is great.

For its sophomore album, Glasvegas retreated to the beach in Santa Monica, California, and brought in producer Flood out of admiration for his work on Depeche Mode’s Violator. Allan swapped an all-black wardrobe for all-white—and seemingly bought a lot of sunblock. Though, as the title loudly lays out, EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ does bring moments of optimism to the echoing, panoramic balladry, with each song drenched in a shimmering sunset of synthesizers, there’s heaviness as well. The album works at the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum, often mining both at once. Allan has a knack for gutting you and has no use for subtlety. This is a kitchen-sink drama shot in IMAX.

“Once a day I think about killing myself,” Allan sings on a two-part tale of homosexual love. In the end, his honest-to-God mom shows up to say, “Please, don’t be afraid.” It’s a daring move, but it works. Pain is something anyone can understand.

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