Lost in France
Director Niall McCann helms a fittingly rumbustious tribute to Glasgow's 90s indie scene
In tough times for independent record labels and venues, director Niall McCann's tribute to Glasgow's mid-1990s indie circuit arrives as a stirring tonic. Dividing his attentions between a 2015 multi-band trip to Mauron, France, and a reflection on a festival of Scottish bands staged there in 1997, McCann mounts a rumbustious return to a land that time forgot: a land in which even none too business-savvy labels like Chemikal Underground could thrive on hope, idealism and community spirit.
McCann's many and affable nattering heads include Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos and guitar-man RM Hubbert. Yet focus comes in the warmly articulate shape of The Delgados' Stewart Henderson, co-founder of Chemikal. As Henderson discusses changing times for bands, a rush of DIY archive footage and press cuttings hurtles us back two decades, when bands like guitar-noise mavens Mogwai drew NME renown. In this context, we learn, Chemikal had confidence enough to sign bands such as Falkirk's maverick filth-poets Arab Strap, and to stage 1997's Scottish invasion of Mauron.
But they had to get there alive first. If you enjoy tall tales of rock 'n' roll misbehaviour, dig in: much fun is offered by recollections of well-refreshed young indie tykes trying to cross the channel without setting each other alight or mysteriously disappearing. And as a cheerily rambling combination of modern-day journey and memory-lane flashback unfolds, the music keeps its end up and then some. Mogwai make a thunderous racket; Delgados singer Emma Pollock stuns.
The 18-years-on reunion trip finds the bands still upbeat about music, albeit older, wiser and wistfully alert to the declining support networks for young outsider musicians nowadays. Taken as a hearty blast of indie-rock nostalgia, Lost in France is a joy. But its industry-wise ruminations speak no less loudly to today, and to a sense of what music may have lost.
Limited release from Fri 17 Feb.