‘Big Ideas’, the fourth full-length studio album by Edinburgh-based The Wynntown Marshals, will sound immediately familiar to those who know the band, and serves as the ideal introduction for those who are less familiar with their output. Four years in the making, the album features ten tracks covering jangling, forthright, radio-ready power pop, rugged, rootsy rockers, moody guitar workouts and stately ballads – all underpinned by the heartfelt, poetic wordplay for which the band are well- known.
The Wynntown Marshals were proclaimed ‘Europe’s best Americana band’ following the release of their debut full-length album ‘Westerner’ in 2010 and, in the years following its release, the band garnered significant praise and support from the likes of Bob Harris (whose BBC Radio 2 show was one of three BBC sessions the band have performed). The band’s second album ‘The Long Haul’ was featured in the Glasgow Herald’s ‘Top 10 Scottish Albums of 2013’ and Uncut magazine awarded it an 8/10 review, a feat they repeated with the follow-up ‘The End of The Golden Age’ in 2015 – with Uncut describing the band as ‘colonising the shadowlands between Tom Petty and Teenage Fanclub’.
Work on ‘Big Ideas’ originally started in 2018. The intervening years saw a line-up change and the confines of the global pandemic inevitably slowed progress, but the resulting album is arguably the highlight of the band’s 15-year career. Engineered and recorded with long-time collaborator Andrew Taylor of Dropkick, mixed by Garry Boyle at Slate Room Studios and mastered by Stuart Hamilton at Castlesound, the record is sonically a step above previous releases, and the mix allows the lush, vibrant instrumentation to take centre stage, providing the ideal backdrop to the recurring lyrical themes of nostalgia, love and loss.
Once again, the lyrics often seek to explore disparate, atypical themes for the genre. Album opener ‘New Millennium’ – a euphoric tale of youthful abandon set against the backdrop of a strident, chest- pounding heartland rocker – sets the scene for the rest of the album, bringing proceedings vividly to life. The title track highlights the pitfalls of society’s relationship with social media, while ‘The Pocket’ is a heart-breaking story song inspired by the historic battle for Stalingrad. The seemingly whimsical lyrics of the pensive track ‘Keys Found In Snow’ unfurl into a tale of a relationship in freefall, and the downbeat album closer ‘Full Moon, Fallow Heart’ is still unrelentingly positive in its widescreen outlook. Nothing in our world is ever perfect.
The Marshals have, like the rest of the planet, been through some significant challenges in recent times – and some of the album’s lyrical content is inevitably shaped by the events of the past two years (the title track and ‘Disappointment’ in particular), but – like the protagonists in the middle eight of the bittersweet track ‘Tourist In My Hometown’ – the band have ‘emerged unbroken, smarting from the pain’.
You can pre-order the album from bandcamp now: