After delving into hip-hop surrealism, blues mythology and rootsy protest balladry in their first two singles, Scottish trio CHECK MASSES widen their palette even further on “Lost in the City” — a yearning, dubby soul cut dripping with nocturnal longing.
“Lost in the City” is the third single from the Edinburgh band’s upcoming debut album Nightlife, out nationwide in July on Triassic Tusk Records. It’s a track that explicitly evokes the LP’s title, described by CHECK MASSES frontman ‘Philly’ Angelo Collins as “a late night tale of wild happenings imagined by subterranean New Yorkers”.
On the upcoming album, Philly, Vic Galloway and Saleem Andrew McGroarty trawl through the nightlife of their home city, tangled in “relationships, temptation, paranoia and the fall-out from them all”. However, on “Lost in the City” we’re transported to the cinematic ideal of a mythical early-hours Manhattan as Philly skulks at the “corner of 53rd Street”, finding a companion to hit the “dirty little club that’s always open”, as a last chance saloon.
Philly says they hit on “Lost in the City” by “pickpocketing Young Americans to look for the outlaw Gil Scott-Heron”. The trio wrote the song around the time of Bowie’s death, so his influence was unavoidable, considering the collective outpouring, and Bowie’s mid-70s woozy soul is all over the falsetto chorus and the desire to “commit to sin”. The soul yearning is offset by producer Andy’s beat, spun out from a David Axelrod sample he sourced from the racks of the record shop where he works, and Galloway’s fuggy dub bassline, subtle guitars and echo chamber melodica. Siren-like electronics weave through the smog, hinting at different levels of desperation in every corner of the city.
“After years of being in fast and wild garage bands, I’ve always wanted to make soul music but never really had the opportunity”, says Galloway. “I’m really into Stax, Motown, Funk and lots of Jamaican music of the 60s and 70s, so finishing “Lost in the City” made me feel great. Philly and I wrote the lyrics together and it really captures a vibe… it flows well with the dubby bassline, the vocal melody and the Curtis Mayfield-esque vocals in the chorus. It works really well live too, and it’s encouraging seeing heads nodding away in the crowd.”
The heightened after-hours, neon-lit wander through alleys and side streets is universal, when winding down isn’t a viable option just yet, and there may be someone on the next block who’s also “waiting for a sucker”.
“In our past lives, we’ve wandered through cities of the world in various states of mind and with various romantic liaisons,” says Galloway. “I’m imagining New York, Kingston and London in this song of the night… I hope it sums up that hazy feeling of being a little wasted, lost and wanting to be with someone… even for a night.”
“Lost in the City” is out on 5th June 2020 via Triassic Tusk Records.
PRE-ORDER Nightlife (out 1st July 2020): https://www.triassictuskrecords.com/recordshop/check-masses-night-life
CHECK MASSES video for “Lost in the City” presents a slice of psychedelic soulful nostalgia distilled from vintage 1970’s family film archives. Vic Galloway explains: “We had to think completely out of the box for the video for ‘Lost in the City’, being in lockdown in Edinburgh and unable to meet or gather in groups. So lead singer Philly’s girlfriend Marta filmed him singing and swaying to the track in their house. Gareth Goodlad at Dangerkill Productions took that raw film, worked his magic and superimposed Philly onto swirling, kaleidoscopic cine-film collages of New York City from the 1970’s. Much of the footage was actually filmed by Andy’s grandparents back then, and has never seen the light of day.”