14 Songs, 46 Minutes



The members of Glasgow-based Astrid were still in their teens when their debut album, 1999's Strange Weather Lately, was released, making them the official start of the third generation of '60s-obsessed jangly Glasgow guitar bands, following Primal Scream (before their dance music obsession) and the Pastels in the mid-'80s and Teenage Fanclub and the Supernaturals in the early '90s. It's possible that there's something in the water. Astrid actually started in the far north of Scotland, on the rural Isle of Lewis, where singer William Campbell (not the one who replaced Paul McCartney when the Beatle was "killed" in a fictitious car accident on November 9, 1966), acoustic guitarist Charles Clark, and bassist Gareth Russell all grew up. Friends from childhood, the trio shared an abiding love of the Beatles and other '60s pop groups, playing in a variety of garage bands through their early teens. Clark moved to Glasgow to attend college at age 17, with Campbell and Russell tagging along for lack of anything better to do. The trio began writing songs together in Glasgow, and although underage, took to hanging out in a musician's pub called the Halt Bar in the city's West End. There they met up with drummer Gary Thom and began rehearsing in early 1997. Naming themselves Astrid after Astrid Kirchner, the Hamburg-born girlfriend of doomed Beatle Stu Sutcliffe, the quartet soon caught the attention of the then-current darlings of the Glasgow scene, Belle and Sebastian, who asked the young group to open for them, first at a local music festival and then on a mini-tour of the U.K. After a London gig with Belle and Sebastian, Astrid signed with the small indie Fantastic Plastic Records. Their first EP, No Reason, came out in April 1998. The disc sold out quickly, and Astrid entered the studio with ex-Orange Juice frontman and fellow Glaswegian Edwyn Collins to record their second EP, Hi-Fi Lo-Fi, and a single, "It's True," both of which were released later the same year. Collins also produced the quartet's debut album, 1999's Strange Weather Lately, which contained no songs from the previous releases. A critical and commercial success in the U.K., the album also sold well in Europe, though no American distributor could be found. This state of affairs remained even after the band was named Best New Discovery at the April 2000 South By Southwest music festival in Austin, TX. An EP of new material, Modes of Transport, was released in September 2000. Thom left the group during the recording sessions for their second album; he was replaced by ex-Smiles drummer Neil Payne. The album, Play Dead, was released March 22, 2001, in the U.K. ~ Stewart Mason