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St Christopher Medal - Sunny Day Machine

  by John Clarkson

published: 23 / 12 / 2015

St Christopher Medal - Sunny Day Machine
Label: Stereogram Recordings
Format: CD


Fabulous debut album from reflective Scottish-formed band St Christopher Medal, whose members are spread across four different parts of both Britain and America

There are unusually long gaps – up to fifteen or twenty seconds sometimes – between the songs on St Christopher Medal’s debut album. That is though as it should be. These are unusual songs, and ones to savour at the time and then to relish in their afterglow. It is a miracle really that ‘Sunny Day Machine’ has finally seen a release at all. St Christopher Medal was formed almost a decade ago out of the ashes of Life With Nixon, a mid-90’s Scottish indie pop band, in which four out of five of its members had played. With those members - vocalist Ali Mathieson, guitarist Kenny Mathieson, bassist Billy Nisbet, drummer David Mack and pianist Andy Jefferies - now scattered over two continents and four wide locations – Perthshire, Dorset, Teeside and New York - progress has been painfully slow. While ‘Sunny Day Machine’ was finally recorded in six days, it took several years to get to that stage. It was then another two years before it was mixed and mastered, and finally it sat on the shelf for a further two years before being picked up for release by the thriving Edinburgh-based label Stereogram Recordings. In their songwriter Ali Mathieson, St Christopher Medal has an outstanding if unconventional lyricist. There is a love song in the soaring Caledonian pop of recent digital single ‘Vatersay Love Song’. Telling with some humour of the slow-burning love affair that evolved between Mathieson and his Hebridean wife whom he met when he spent some years living and working on the Isle of Barra, it is hardly, however, the stuff of orthodox pop fare (“We are the same kind/We are the same age/It took us two years to work up the courage”). Other songs are even more angular lyrically still. Elegiac opening track is told from the perspective of the self-exiled gay main character in Canadian writer Don Hannah’s now out-of-print 1998 novel ‘The Wise and Foolish Virgins’ (“Mama cried when I left home/It must be ten years now/Daddy still thinks I might come back with a girlfriend/But you can’t come home/You can’t come home”). The ghosts of the past haunt the present in ‘Satchel Bag’ when Mathieson finds in his new house a bag of family photos and documents that belonged to one of its previous owners. ‘Ernestine’ is meanwhile a tribute to an imaginary 99 year old (“It’s your birthday/You’ve seen it all/You’ve been blind since birth”). Musically it runs a gauntlet of styles and influences from jangling C-86 to harmonic pop to Stones-style 70’s country rock. Generally though it is hazy-toned and reflective and, with songs tending to start and finish in very different places, it most of all comes across as like a mix of the ever thoughtful Leonard Cohen combined with Teenage Fanclub or the Trash Can Sinatras at their most balladic. “We are Coldplay/We are the Three Degrees/We are The Fall/Know it all/We are the Medal,” sings Ali Mathieson towards the end on the penultimate track, self-mocking cod anthem, ‘We Are the Medal’, but even here, as there is throughout, there is a majesty and a sense of stateliness. While they are hampered by geographical location and only as a result able to play shows very rarely, one can only hope that St Christopher Medal will nevertheless attract some kind of attention for ‘Sunny Day Machine’. This is a very fine record by a very fine band.a

Track Listing:-
1 Glori
2 Vatersay Love Song
3 Leave The Boy Upstairs
4 Satchel Bag
5 Great Lakes Morning
6 The Appin Indians
7 From A Zafira Comfort
8 Ernestine
9 Days Like These
10 What She Said On The Street
11 We Are The Medal
12 West
13 Untitled Bonus Track 1
14 Untitled Bonus Track 2

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Interview (2015)
St Christopher Medal - Interview
John Clarkson speaks to Ali Mathieson, the front man with Scottish-formed Americana/pop act St Christopher Medal, about their debut album 'Sunny Day Machine' and why it has taken almost a decade to release and record

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Hoof (2019)
Evocative and versatile Americana on second album from Scottish act St. Christopher Medal

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