Forget all the talk about whether guitar music is due a resurgence or is in its death throes. Ignore the chatter about howthisgenre orthatmusical style is too dominant in the charts. At the end of the day, it's all about - no, it'sonlyabout - the songs. Kassidy know this, and they have the songs to prove it.
On their glorious new album, One Man Army, the Glaswegian band build on the promise of their debut to arrive at the point their fans always knew they were destined to reach. The 11 tracks are unashamedly big-music beasts, destined for mainstream radio playlists and packed-to-the-rafters arenas. Fans of last year's Hope St, however, needn't despair about a new direction. Kassidy haven't abandoned their love of classic '70s rock, their nods to Neil Young or their sun-kissed Crosby, Stills & Nash-style harmonies. They've simply made their sound bigger, and made it their own. Soak in their new songs (at full volume if possible) and you cannot fail to spot the brackish tang of the Clyde, the hurtling, singalong, mosh-tastic camaraderie of a packed West Coast show. It is this conflict, this tension that explains One Man Army's infectious magic.
Hear the propulsive, lighters-aloft, close-harmony chorus of Home just once and you'll have it lodged in your head for days. Blast the scuzzy blues-rock of Get By, a glam rock-touched monster of a song, and try to resist jumping up and down. Shake your shoulders to the acoustic shuffle of Maybe I'll Find - with its classic a capella breakdown and heartbreaking lyrics - and discover how 1970s Laurel Canyon rock can be relocated to Glasgow's south side.
Then there's the album's title track, a slow-build belter that nails Kassidy's impassioned, all-or-nothing, everything-or-don't-bother approach to making music. And The Hunted, a widescreen, sorrow-soaked, midtempo track with a call-to-arms chorus that sums up the spirit of four friends who make music because they have to, because that's all they know.
Comprised of four singers armed with acoustic guitars - Barrie James O'Neill, Hamish Fingland, Lewis Andrew and Chris Potter - Kassidy formed at the tail end of 2008, after umpteen long, drunken nights spent jamming in Hamish's Merchant City flat. All four had been in bands before, all four were looking for the one band that mattered. They shared a love of the Beach Boys, Neil Young, the Mama & Papas and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Later, they learnt to put up with Barrie James' obsessive listening to Jeff Buckley. ("For four hours at a time on the tour bus," sighs Lewis.)
Because all four sang, and because they wanted to hear each other's voices, at their first proper session, Kassidy unplugged their guitars and immediately found their sound. That session spawned their first two songs. So the band booked a gig, on Halloween, a week and a half later. By the time they stepped on stage, they had a full set of songs. By the time they stepped off it, having performed standing side by side, they also had an image.
"A friend took a photo of us at that show, stood in a row, all playing our acoustics," says Barrie James. "We looked at it and thought, 'Yeah, that's us'. In this band, we all sing and we all write. We're equal. For months, that photo was the only thing on our MySpace page. We were selling out shows in Glasgow, so labels got to hear about us. But they had to come and see us play live because we had no music online."
One of those labels was Mercury, which signed Kassidy in 2009. Oh, and sent them to record their debut album in a London studio with Arctic Monkeys' producer Jim Abiss. The band didn't feel the results captured what they were about and so returned to Glasgow to remake Hope St with their friend (and Gang Of Four bassist) Thomas McNeice.
Following Hope St's release last March, Kassidy scarcely stopped touring. They supported Primal Scream, played festivals in the UK and abroad and headlined their own shows as both a rowdy acoustic four-piece and with a full band. They saw out 2011 with a sold-out show at Glasgow's Barrowlands.
Kassidy also moved en masse in to an old recording complex in Shawlands on Glasgow's south side, where they set up their own studio. When they weren't on the road, they wrote songs.
"There are four pianos in our house, plus lots of guitars," says Chris. "And we all write, all the time. We wonder in to each other's rooms with the start of a song, or some chords or maybe a melody. Then someone else tweaks it, or adds a chorus, or puts harmonies on it."
Not to mention efficient. With a few weeks off before their final tour of 2011 began, Kassidy demoed their new songs. When the label heard them, they told the band to begin recording as soon as possible. The song Driven By Fools made it on to One Man Army in demo form. The rest were recorded almost entirely live.
"A lot of people who saw us live said we sounded much harder than we did on record," says Lewis. "Live, we have a big, ballsy sound and tons of energy. We wanted to capture that on this album. We couldn't before, mostly because our debut was recorded one on microphone, in a small room with a dodgy computer, then tweaked and tweaked and tweaked."
Another difference from their debut is that on One Man Army, all four take turns singing lead, rather than just Barrie James and Chris. Lewis' lovely lead vocals on Home are all the more surprising when he admits he only recently realised he could sing.
"I often wondered why I was in a harmony band," he laughs. "To be honest, I used to talk a lot of the lyrics. Like spoken word harmony! Then one day in the studio, I suggested we try a high harmony and sang to show the guys what I meant. It was a Eureka moment! They all stared, shocked at my voice. I practised a bit, got more confident and now you can't stop me singing."
One Man Army is full of Eureka moments. It's an album stuffed with songs you can hear being howled back at festivals in fields and hummed along to on radios at home. Most importantly, it's a joyful album because it marks that moment when a band stops merely suggesting what they're capable of and actually achieves it.