Unlock your Sons and Daughters

Pub date April 30, 2008
WriterTodd Lavoie
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

Raw, skin-glistening sensuality and brooding, lip-curled menace — ah, what a combination at the club. There’s something to be said for straddling the edge of a knife like that, simultaneously titilutf8g and unsettling those witnessing the spectacle onstage. When my partner and I first caught the fearsomely hot ‘n’ bothered Scottish quartet Sons and Daughters at a music-shop appearance in their hometown of Glasgow back in 2005, we were spellbound, rendered immobile in a mighty glue of arousal and trepidation. It felt wonderful.

Despite the bright lights and merchandise displays, the foursome had cloaked the room in lurid, late-night basement ambience: nothing but broken bottles and dark-corner encounters to be regretted the morning after. Force-of-nature vocalist Adele Bethel brandished the mic cord like a whip, lashing away at the floor like a bedroom punisher as her bandmates stoked rockabilly wildfires behind her. The powder keg at their core, shrapnel-blues guitarist Scott Paterson, provided the perfect sparring partner for Bethel’s tales of scary love and lusty violence, his soulful baritone bellow and spiked riffs further elevating the drama. Then there were the rhythms of drummer David Gow and bassist and occasional mandolinist Ailidh Lennon — alternating between deathly lurches and full-blown Sun Records shuffles on speed, their purely primal, low-end grind hit squarely between the gut and the groin. We were transfixed. And so the love affair — sordidness and all — began.

To locate the first strokes of desire, one must consult Sons and Daughters’ 2003 debut, Love the Cup (Domino), for answers. A seven-song collection of murderous urges and dirty romances, the mandolin-blazing mini-album threw fevered glances in the direction of X, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and as the song title "Johnny Cash" would suggest, the Man in Black himself. Offering both sweltering come-ons and skin-burrowing creep-outs, the highlight arrived with the ominous chug of "La Lune," in which Bethel offered some small comfort for listeners’ inevitable sneaking feelings: "The fear’s making sense."

The courtship blossomed with 2005’s The Repulsion Box (Domino), a continuation of the Glaswegians’ frenzied rockabilly trawls through id territory. But my head officially tumbled over my heels with the arrival of the recently released This Gift (Domino). Produced by former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, this third outing is an immense leap forward, heaping compellingly glamorous levels of reverb-heavy drama to the band’s more tightly focused explorations of the dark side of the pleasure principle. "Living’s so dangerous / Try to conduct yourself," Bethel counsels on the twisted soul rave-up "Darling." But somehow I have to wonder whether Sons and Daughters follow their own advice. Meanwhile, I seem to have fallen a bit deeper.


With Bodies of Water

Fri/2, 9 p.m., $15

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750