The last year has seen the return to the stage of several of the great Scottish bands and acts of the 1980s.

Love and Money and the Big Dish have both recently reformed after absences of over fifteen years. Grahame Skinner after a similar hiatus is also back on the road with his new band Skinner, playing the songs of both his 1980's chart band Hipsway and obscurer 1990's art rock project Cowboy Mouth.

Skinner made their debut at Ayrshire's Darvel Music Festival last May, and are now playing a four date tour of Scotland, opening in Edinburgh at the Electric Circus and concluding with shows in Dundee, Aberdeen and the group’s native Glasgow.

The bill for tonight is an odd one that doesn't really gel. The support act Party Fears Three are a synth pop 80's cover band who unabashedly blast their way through the hits of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the Pet Shop Boys and Duran Duran. Meanwhile, through the window of a fortunately soundproofed karaoke room, which is attached to the live venue, Sarah's Big Hen Party Night Do can be seen singing along to 'Y.M.C.A.'

Hipsway always came out of the more thoughtful end of pop, and Cowboy Mouth had the sort of brooding, confessional feel that comes out of insomnia and late night solitary drinking sessions. Against such a backdrop, and the fact that this is his first Edinburgh gig in approximately twenty years, "Skin" looks understandably somewhat nervous as he comes on stage.

The opening number, Hipsway’s ‘Tinder’, used in 1986 as the soundtrack to a McEwan’s Lager advert, is somewhat hesitant. The second number, the Velvet Underground-esque pop of Skinner’s forthcoming debut single and an old Cowboy Mouth number, ‘Here Comes Cindy’, is, however, much more confident. By the time of the third song, the mournful, self-lacerating blues of Cowboy Mouth’s ‘My Life as a Dog’, any nerves are gone.

What is thrilling about tonight’s show is its unpredictability. As well as Skin on vocals and occasional acoustic guitar, Skinner also consists of his co-songwriter in Cowboy Mouth and Love and Money ‘s Douglas MacIntyre on electric guitar; Gordon Wilson, also from Love and Money, on drums; Aztec Camera’s Campbell Owens on bass and former Del Amitri member Andy Alston on keyboards.

There are some real obscurities in tonight’s set. ‘Show Me the Door’ is a superb piece of indie pop from Skin’s first band, the Jazzateers’s 1983 eponymous album. ‘Bad Poetry’, one of the lesser known tracks from Cowboy Mouth’s 1995 ‘My Life as a Dog’ debut album, finds a tortured Skin in doubt of his own writing abilities (“Bad poetry/It’s all I have got”), and, against the distorted backdrop of his group’s instrumentation, his voice breaking away from its regular crooning baritone into a self-flagellating roar.

The mocking ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’, directed at an over-confident ex-girlfriend, is the least known of all, a track from an abandoned album from 1997. The first release under the Skinner moniker, it has only ever seen release on a 2005 double CD compilation, ‘Ave Marina’, put out to coincide with Cowboy Mouth’s label Marina Records’ tenth anniversary. ‘Montague Terrace’ is meanwhile a sublime cover of a track from Grahame Skinner’s favourite singer Scott Walker’s 1967 debut solo album, ‘Scott’.

The thirteen song set is concluded with a succession of singles from Hipsway’s 1986 self-titled debut album, ‘Ask the Lord’, ‘Long White Car’, ‘The Broken Years’ and ‘The Honeythief’. ‘Ask the Lord’ and ‘The Broken Years’, written about social hardship at the time of Thatcherism, remain twenty five years on as socially relevant today as when they were first released. ’Long White Car’ is the most beautiful of torch songs, and encore white soul/funk number, ‘The Honeythief’ , Hipsway’s biggest hit, brings the set to a rousing close.

Tonight’s show has been an outstanding success, and has revealed again after his long sabbatical what a gifted and unique songwriter and singer Grahame Skinner is.


Set List:

Tinder/Here Comes Cindy/Life as a Dog/Waiting for an Echo/Show Me the Door/Bad Poetry/Sea Shanty/Yeah Yeah Yeah/Montague Terrace/Ask the Lord/Long White Car/The Broken Years

Encore:

The Honeythief











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