An el­egy on film shows it is not just in France that new music is lost

The Herald - Arts - - OPINION - KEITH BRUCE

THERE must be some clause in the Scottish music doc­u­men­tary-maker’s hand­book that in­sists on a fer­ry­boat shoot. Af­ter the cruise down the Clyde in Paul Fe­gan’s Where You’re Meant To Be, there are scenes aboard a cross-Chan­nel ves­sel in Niall McCann’s Lost in France, which had a cross-coun­try link-up to screens across the UK from its Glas­gow Film Fes­ti­val event at the O2ABC in Sauchiehall Street on Tues­day even­ing.

The two films share more than that, how­ever, with a jour­ney – and specif­i­cally mu­si­cians on the road – at the heart of the nar­ra­tive, and a sim­i­lar vis­ual aes­thetic and edit­ing style. But there is also a world of dif­fer­ence be­tween them. While Fe­gan’s film be­comes an up­beat cel­e­bra­tion of the mu­si­cal tra­di­tion em­bod­ied by singer Sheila Ste­wart, who died be­fore it was com­pleted, McCann’s re­mem­brance of Glas­gow’s Chemikal Un­der­ground la­bel show­case jaunt to Mau­ron in Brit­tany is in­ef­fa­bly sad.

McCann’s os­ten­si­bly daft no­tion of re­unit­ing the peo­ple who had taken Glas­gow’s music scene to a small ru­ral French town 20 years ago is al­most un­bear­ably el­e­gaic, with Ste­wart Hen­der­son, the mem­ber of The Del­ga­dos who was the main driv­ing force be­hind the la­bel and who went on to cre­ate the Scottish Al­bum of the Year award, the most clear-sighted – and, ul­ti­mately, bleak­est – voice in the nar­ra­tive.

It is not as if mem­bers of the cast of the film have not gone on to bright ca­reers. Hen­der­son’s band­mate Emma Pol­lock is a suc­cess­ful solo artist and her hus­band, the band’s drum­mer Paul Sav­age one of Scot­land’s most re­spected record­ing pro­duc­ers. Stuart Braith­waite of Mog­wai may have much less hair, but his band now plays the SSE Hy­dro and sound­tracks art-house movies and TV se­ries. Alex Kapra­nos – who ap­peared on­stage on Tues­day with rather more hair than in the film – be­came the front­man of chart-top­pers Franz Fer­di­nand.

But the big­ger pic­ture is that other mem­bers of the group that cre­ated the la­bel that went on the tour that the film doc­u­ments are now mov­ing to em­ploy­ment out­side of the music busi­ness, and the bands that Chemikal Un­der­ground has cham­pi­oned in more re­cent years – whose music also fea­tures in the film – have had noth­ing like the level of com­mer­cial suc­cess of the Glas­gow bands whose music they re­leased in those days. For to­day’s gen­er­a­tion of twen­tysome­things, the world of McCann’s film is not the re­motest pos­si­bil­ity: rock’n’roll might still show plenty ev­i­dence of cre­ativ­ity, but it of­fers the prospect of a ca­reer to very few.

By hap­pen­stance, BBC Ra­dio 6Mu­sic chose Tues­day to re­veal fur­ther il­lus­tra­tion of that. The 6Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, which will fill venues across Glas­gow in a month’s time has as its head­lin­ers Depeche Mode, Gold­frapp and Je­sus and Mary Chain, whose ground-break­ing years are now decades in the past. There are younger, fresher tal­ents to be found on the bill over the fes­ti­val week­end, but the bal­ance is not healthy and the idea that – to par­al­lel Lost in France – a posse of cut­ting-edge French mu­si­cians might turn up in the Dear Green Place and play to an ap­pre­cia­tive au­di­ence is plainly lu­di­crous. But then a huge part of the suc­cess of 6Mu­sic is pred­i­cated on rock’n’roll her­itage, and the dan­ger is that, ‘ere long, her­itage rock’n’roll will be all that there is.

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