Founded at University of Glasgow, Walt Disco’s latest EP channels the hyper-pop of SOPHIE, androgyny of David Bowie and punk defiance of Scotland’s Postcard Records artists.
Walt Disco are one of the most exciting bands to burst onto the Glasgow music scene in recent years. Their androgynous style coupled with a New Romantic-inspired sound sets them a world apart from other artists making the rounds of Scotland’s venues today. Formed at University of Glasgow and playing their first gig at a Battle of the Bands in the students’ union, the band are the natural successors to Scotland’s post-punk generation of Postcard Records and the Associates. When I first encountered Walt Disco, opening for German garage rock duo Gurr back in 2017, I was immediately captivated by their exhilarating stage presence. The small, sparse crowd didn’t seem to faze them; they brought the life (and the noise) of the party with them and soon enough had everyone in a rousing trance of dancing and debauchery. Since those early days, I’ve kept a close eye on the band’s progress, evolving both in terms of line-up and sound into the genderbending, sultry sextet they are today. Their latest release finds them with one foot in the glitz and glamour of cabaret and the other firmly planted in the realm of kinetic post-punk.
Despite their long status as mainstays of the Glasgow underground circuit, Young, Hard and Handsome is Walt Disco’s debut EP, having only officially released a small batch of singles until now. With this offering, we see the flamboyant rockers cementing their place within the cream of the crop of modern Scottish music. Initially scheduled to play SXSW this year, the pandemic has posed a setback to their global ambitions, but this release shows a determination to channel that energy into the studio instead. The four tracks were recorded with Gang of Four bassist Thomas McNeice in his Glasgow studio, whose presence can be immediately felt on the opening track Hey Boy (You’re One of Us), as their signature post-punk potency comes in the form of a powerful drum beat that hits listeners like a freight train. Despite this immediate intensity, the opening track is definitely the weakest of the four on offer here – it packs a punch, but it’s easy to lose interest in, in parts feeling like a contrived continuation of 70s glam rock tradition. However, what it lacks in terms of the cutting-edge sounds and aesthetics that we have come to expect from the band, it more than makes up for in passion. In fact, throughout the EP, the band’s high energy and tight, full sound never falters. The lead single Cut Your Hair is a mettlesome, millennial anthem kicking back at conservative attitudes towards a post-gender world. A gritty bassline drives the song while vocalist James Potter eccentrically hollers the refrain “cut your hair and let us be young!”
The latter half of the EP sees the band flirting with some new directions, incorporating stylings of PC music (modern giants of avant-garde techno and bubble-gum pop intrinsic to the queer music scene). I’m What You Want channels the vibrancy of St. Vincent into their own impassioned orgy of punch-drunk post-punk, working in pitch-shifted vocals reminiscent of 100 gecs or SOPHIE in the song’s climactic coda. Then, rounding off the EP with a change of pace, Heather offers a smooth respite from the intensity of the rest of the tracks. Compelling synth flourishes are delivered over a poppy rhythm, showcasing their eclectic style. This is a track for the internet age, giving nods to everyone from David Bowie to Maria Takeuchi, while the band’s own creative flair simultaneously carves out a place of their own in musical history.
Young, Hard, and Handsome serves as proof of what many Glasgow musos are already aware: Walt Disco are enthralling, impassioned masters of their craft, and this is just the beginning.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Top Track: Heather