For any young band looking to breakthrough in 2023, any industry expert will tell you that momentum – and how you handle it – is everything. If you look at any band that has ever made it, at some point in their career they capitalised on the media attention they had been granted and delivered big when the spotlight was firmly on them. Now for young bands emerging over the last few years, there’s been an additional puzzle to solve – how do you maintain your momentum when confronted with a global pandemic and an increasingly uncertain world? Well Scottish outfit Declan Welsh & The Decadent West may have found the answer.
Rewind to 2019, Declan Welsh & The Decadent West very much had momentum on their side. The Glasgow rockers had just released their debut ‘Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold’ to huge acclaim, earning themselves a Scottish Album of the Year award nomination and a legion of devoted fans in the process. However, when the ability to tour that record and earn new fans across the UK got taken away, they stayed productive by releasing several EPs. This helped them to maintain their buzz as one of Scotland’s most exciting new bands, whilst also emerging out of lockdown with an enviable arsenal of songs that have helped them light up their festival, tour support and headline shows through their electric live performances. But it turns out those EPs weren’t the only thing they wrote during lockdown – they also got Album No. 2 in the can.
As to be expected, the second album from Declan Welsh & The Decadent West – simply titled ‘2’ – arrives very much a product of the environment in which it was made. Written and demoed entirely from Declan Welsh’s bedroom, it’s an album that looks out at an increasingly isolated world, as well as introspectively searches within. Welsh’s penmanship is as sharp as it’s ever been too, as he crafts descriptive short stories and recalls feelings of apathy, anxiety, addiction, but also adoration. Sonically the band can be found pushing their boundaries too, adding more layers to their alt-rock roots as well as experimenting with more electronic and disco-inspired sounds. The result is an impressive sophomore outing that shows Declan Welsh & The Decadent West fully justify the hype that has surrounded them till now.
The band come storming straight out of the gate on opener ‘Mercy’, which is fuelled by blistering riffs and a stomp of drums as Declan offers suitably hazy cries of “And I got so high!” It’s quickly followed by single ‘King Of My Head’, which is a psychedelic trip inside Declan’s mental state, filled with shimmering synths and swirling guitars. ‘Come Outside’ is then an early standout, which sonically channels ‘In Rainbows’-era Radiohead and plays out almost like the darker, more sinister cousin of Foals’ ‘Life Is Yours’. It’s a song about not living life to the full (“So now you exist to simply subsist”), culminating in a hypnotic spoken-word passage that sees Declan’s words surrounded by an ominous wall of noise. Ok Now then sadly feels particularly timely given recent global conflicts, opening on a drone of synths before atmospheric Interpol-esque guitars take over, as Declan apathetically sings “Like the bombs you’ll never see, when they’re far enough away they’re make believe.” A powerful track and the end to a thrilling opening run of songs.
There’s plenty of highlights around the midway point too, with heavy feelings of hopelessness in the lyrics of ‘First To Know’ offset by some stuttering guitar riffs, before ‘Doing Great’ lightens things up with a cool Nile Rodgers-style groove. Recent single ‘100 To 1 (Saturday Night)’ is then reminiscent of Yard Act, a cautionary tale about living for the weekend with a jarring cacophonous beat that is intertwined with more melodic guitars, oddly helping to set the chaotic scenes being described. ‘Hardly News’ is then the sweetest moment on the whole record with Declan Welsh & The Decadent West delivering their very own love song, whilst ‘The Comedian’ ensures normal service is resumed for a melancholic yet soaring finale, that revels in the abyss being painted.
Overall this is an excellent second outing for Declan Welsh & The Decadent West, one that shows their artistic growth since their debut four years ago but also feels sadly current in the subject matters that it presents. That said whilst lyrically it may feel apocalyptic at times, there is also feelings of hope sprinkled into the music here to ensure there is some light to counteract the dark. It’ll be interesting to see how Declan Welsh & The Decadent West kick-on from here, but my guess is that with that magic momentum firmly on their side, there’s no stopping them now.
Words: Karl Blakesley