Go back a few years, back through the mists of time into the mid-late 1980s/early 1990s, and you’d find a Glaswegian group who to many almost became shorthand for the shambling guitar-pop prevalent at the time – singing, as they did, exuberant songs about trucks, trains and tractors. Before we should go any further it ought to be noted that anyone looking for the same Pastels should look elsewhere, for those days have long gone. Instead, as a matter of factual accuracy, their recent history deserves a mention, for it’s included film soundtracks, theatre commissions and a collaboration with Japanese band The Tenniscoats.
Perhaps these experience have helped to shape their new record, ‘Slow Summits’, which possesses an effortless, almost pastoral grace throughout its duration. Nowhere is this more evident than on the opening track, ‘Secret Music’, which almost feels like Saint Etienne at their most laid back and talks languidly of how ‘rain is falling on a European street’ amid delicate guitar work and deft flute lines. Elsewhere, ‘Summer Rain’ could be mistaken for one of neighbours Orange Juice’s more reflective early works, while ‘Kicking Leaves’ gorgeous and hazy – again backed up with copious amounts of wind and string additions. That’s not to say it’s all stately introspection – lead single ‘Check My Heart’ is as infectious and immediate as you could ever wish for a lead single to be.
In offering something which even they concede may prove genuinely new to their fan base, The Pastels have played the odds and come out on top. Blessed with an inherent elegance, well thought-out intricacies and nuances and an overall feel that begs for repeat listens. Spend any element of time with it and each passing play opens the album up, showing it off as the special, if often-understated record that it is.