Scruffs Conquest

The Scruffs somehow missed the boat, or maybe they just weren't told what time it was leaving at. They were playing in Memphis around the same time as Big Star and helped create the power pop movement that has been going strong since then. Yet they never managed go beyond their cult following, something that took a toll on the band and in the mid-'80s, only leader Stephen Burns was left; he moved to Glasgow, where he continued to record as the Scruffs. His fifth album, Conquest, comes hurtling out of the gates at a breakneck pace and doesn't let up even on the quieter songs, which also have that immediacy. Clearly the geography has played a part in the album, and inviting members of Teenage Fanclub and Belle & Sebastian to contribute is always going to pull it in a certain direction. Yet there's no way he can turn his back on that distinct Ardent sound and the spirit of Memphis infuses the songs like it did on Alex Chilton's solo records. The saxophone that drives many of the songs gives them that confusingly timeless quality that makes it hard to figure out when they were recorded. There's nothing too complicated and nothing new, but it's still a really fun record. (Independent)