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Across the Milky Way

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Album Review

During the always-nostalgic '90s, any number of musicians paid homage to some combination of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Burt Bacharach, trying to channel those influences into perfect pop that could actually stand alongside the work of their heroes. From the gruff Fab Four cops of Oasis to the acidic easy listening of the Divine Comedy to even the angelic, surf-kissed harmonies of R.E.M.'s Up, you could hardly open your ears without some reminder of the divine three B's. But no one, perhaps, has been able to invoke the entire trio as effectively as the Pearlfishers' David Scott does on Across the Milky Way, a gorgeous album good enough not to send you immediately scurrying to your record collection for a taste of the real thing. Songs like the pastoral title track, something Brian Wilson might have conjured up if he'd been born in Scotland instead of California, and "New Stars," three blissful minutes of everything that's great about jangle pop, are the real thing, in fact — and that's just the first two cuts. With help from a string section, horns, a pair of drummers, and even a banjo player, Scott isn't limited in his influences. A true student of pop, he nods here to everything from the Brill Building to sentimental '70s AM radio fare. But he always returns to those often-elusive touchstones, with impeccable results. Wouldn't Bacharach himself want to claim the heart-tugging, flügelhorn-flecked instrumental "The Vampires of Camelon"? Wouldn't Mike Love and company have loved to tackle the soaring chorus of "Shine It Out"? And couldn't the gentle "Paint on a Smile" pass for a McCartney offering from a mid-period Moptops album? To some, that probably reads like sacrilege, especially given that Scott's lyrics, while often evocative and never dumb, aren't the equal of his music. Then again, that would be a tall order indeed — and after all, the words of Scott's idols are usually remembered far less often than their hummable, loveable, damn near-inescapable tunes. If those are what you're looking for, then Across the Milky Way sounds like an outing for the ages.


Formed: Falkirk, Scotland

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s

An ever-shifting Scottish group led by singer/songwriter David Scott, the only constant member, the Pearlfishers are a glorious soft pop band mixing acoustic-based music with subtle orchestral flourishes, rather like a Glasgow-based Prefab Sprout with a major Brian Wilson fixation. Since forming in 1989 the Pearlfishers have refined and broadened their sound while maintaining a steadily growing cult following. Scott began writing songs while a teenager in Glasgow in the early '80s. In the summer...
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Across the Milky Way, The Pearlfishers
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