I always knew that if those kids in Scotland sat around on the dole long enough, smoking pot and listening to Pet Sounds, one of them would eventually turn out a masterpiece. The fact that so much good music has been coming out of Caledonia lately—from the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Yummy Fur, Adventures in Stereo, and Lung Leg—shows either a growth in Scottish ambitions or a surfeit of decent weed. None of these bands are content to wear their influences on their sleeves; rather, they disable and plunder them, throwing so many elements into the mix they can send you spinning. Trembling Blue Stars are particularly eclectic and exciting. They’re happy to play soulful troubadours, then back their crooning suddenly with a hiphop beat, and then finish up with vamps that could come off a Roger Waters solo album. But it’s all done beautifully; the genuine nature of these simple songs shines through all the uproar. They’re especially obsessed with love gone awry, as in the glorious “Headlights,” which could be Lloyd Cole at his most suicidal, and “Never Loved You More,” which sounds like an Opal outtake. A reprise of the latter shows the band at its most throbbingly dance-y, reveling in the perversity of offering the same song stretched to the hilt. But the slower, softer side of the band is most intriguing, making this album a definite, if dismal, masterpiece.—Dale Shaw

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