ABERDEEN’S FINEST COLD YEARS RELEASE DEBUT ALBUM
‘PARADISE’ 4TH SEPTEMBER via eOne
It doesn’t come much more grim than life in a gritty, remote Scottish city like Aberdeen. So says northeast native Ross Gordon, anyway, vocalist with rising, heart-on-sleeve rock four-piece, Cold Years. If you want a sense of the true sound of youth disaffection in post-Brexit Britain, look no further. This summer, the band will finally release their highly anticipated debut album Paradise – a title bearing more than a suggestion of sarcastic snarl to go along with the considerable bite found on the music contained within.
“Our hometown is a shithole,” Ross spits, with characteristically direct candour. “The album is called Paradise because Aberdeen is not a paradise. It’s horrible, it’s grey, and it’s cold all the time. We all live and work here, and it’s not very happy. It’s quite morbid when you stop to think about it. But at the same time, it’s home.”
Echoing the infamous, despairing, “it’s shite being Scottish” rant made by protagonist Renton in Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel, Trainspotting, Ross’ near-nihilistic take on the town where he was born goes further still, almost three decades and a generation later. Rather than succumb to the pitfalls that laid waste to previous generations, however, he poured all of his frustration and all of his anger into the 13 songs that represent his band’s first foray into full-length recording.
Unlike the often-bleak subject matter that inspired them, however, the songs of Paradise burst from the speakers with a ‘clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose’ soul, springboarding off timelessly vintage-tinged sounds, fuelled by lung-busting choruses and buffed-up with a thoroughly modern-day, blue-collar punk rock sheen. It’s a proud rock’n’roll record, capturing with unflinching honesty a world that offers little reason for hope, even if the songs sound anything but hopeless.
“There’s an ongoing narrative about how fucked everything is at the moment,” Ross says of the thread that ties otherwise disparate themes together, whittled down, he estimates, from an initial 60 songs. “It links everything really, not just purely politics. It’s linked to the economy, to drugs and alcohol, and what our generation is going through right now. You work hard in school, you train for your career and you try to succeed at it, but the reality is that none of it really fucking matters. It’s a record that’s angry because, as a generation, we feel like we’ve been sold short.”
Naturally, the creation of an album instilled with such an inflamed sense of injustice didn’t come without its difficulties. It was a challenging process that often tested the collective patience of the quartet, completed by guitarist Finlay Urquhart, bassist Louis Craighead, and drummer Fraser Allan. But such was the passion that each member invested into it, paired with an indomitable spirit, that the band has made good on the past few years of promise.
“We all, really, really fought about what we each wanted on this,” Ross reveals, allowing himself to laugh about it all now. “There were heated arguments about the songs because every single person was so engaged in the process. And that’s a first for us. If we’d done it any other way or at any other time, it wouldn’t have been the same, and more importantly, it wouldn’t have been as good.”
The original plan was to put out a debut album last year, but instead, having got as far as five songs they weren’t feeling, they essentially scrapped everything and started again from scratch.
“I think we needed to grow as people,” Ross admits, “because there’s a lot of things on this record that we previously wouldn’t have written about. I think when you first start out, you tend to gravitate towards writing stuff that sounds like the artists you love. But as much as I still really love bands like The Gaslight Anthem and people like Bruce Springsteen, I wanted to break away from where we’d been. Everything changes with time. Even my voice changed over the past four years because we’ve played so much.”
In hindsight, that decision to stall, regroup and refocus has proved to be an inspired one. Rather than rushing out a record for the sake of expediency, taking time to reflect, be honest, and pour everything the band had into the process has made for a set of songs that will endure and stand the Scots in admirable stead. After all, you only get one shot at making your first album, so you better make it the best it can be.
“I went through a divorce, different jobs, different flats, different girls… And I tried to cover everything that’s happened in the past few years,” Ross says of the self-examination he underwent on these tracks. “All of my friends are settling down and having kids now and, well, I’m not.”
It was the breakthrough of writing Breathe that lit the initial spark. A frenetic, driving rock anthem with a typically bombastic chorus, it acted as a beacon for the no-holding-back lyrical bravery that the vocalist had to enter into if these were to become songs of real substance and value.
“It’s about having something in your life that’s worth giving your best shot, whether that be a relationship, a job, or whatever. We’ve had replacement members over the years, we’ve had fights, and we’ve scrapped half an album’s worth of material. But that song closed the book on all that old stuff, for me. We worked really hard on this record. We had to, and I’m proud of it.”
That’s pride that shines through on the contemplative notes, and almost power ballad-esque nods of the old song reimagined, “The Waits.” “Burn The House Down” matches Ross’ ire and sense of self-loathing with an equally explosive yet radio-friendly backing. “Electricity” is a classic, loved-up song about a girl, whereas “Hold On” brings a refrain that’ll wheedle its way into your subconscious from the moment you hear it. Sending the record home on a stripped-back acoustic finisher, “Hunter” is sure to shed tears. That it was inspired by the frontman’s dog passing seems to matter little, so universal is the sentiment of loss and mourning – perfectly rendered here, in heart-breaking style.
Considering the unforgiving, harsh, and often dismal depths from which Paradise was born, it’s an album that strives for optimism. “There’s definitely some love on there – it’s important to keep things like that in between the misery,” the frontman reasons. Because these are songs of passion and belief that unapologetically breathe the redemptive fire of rock’n’roll.
“I’m really pissed off at the moment,” the frontman confesses, “because there are so many good bands that I listened to growing up who have ditched their guitars and picked up synths. I don’t understand why they’re all making the shift to commercial pop music when they cut their teeth on rock’n’roll.”
Let others lose their heads when the pressure hits, though. Cold Years know who they are, and they’re staying true to their roots. And despite a journey ahead that promises to send them far and wide, they won’t ever forget where they came from even if it is rubbish.
“I slap myself every day that a band from where we’re from manages to live their dream like this,” Ross smiles. “We’re so remote here. We have nothing. The last band to do anything from Aberdeen was The Xcerts, and they ended up having to move to Brighton because they couldn’t do it from here.”
“I really am grateful for the opportunity that we’ve got,” he adds earnestly. “Every single day. It’s a huge thing, it’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s meant to be hard because nothing worthwhile doing is ever easy.”