If you’ve been keeping a close watch on developments in Scottish independent music over the last three decades, you won’t be needing any introduction to Jim McCulloch. One way or another, he has always been a presence, either as a Soup Dragon, or with Snowgoose, Superstar or BMX Bandits. When Isobel Campbell leapt from Belle & Sebastian to work with Mark Lanegan, those of us who clock these sorts of things could see Jim doing what he does best: servicing the beauty in a song with his unassumingly expressive playing. That seems to be a recurring theme in the work of Jim McCulloch: even when you don’t consciously notice what he’s up to, you always feel its effect.
The cloistered intimacy of those early compositions perhaps reflected the circumstances in which they were created. Jim had just become a father, and certainly it’s no great stretch to imagine a newborn baby being serenaded to sleep by The Sun and Moon and Stars. His high, hushed delivery perfectly complements the hymnal simplicity of a song which appears to deal with the acceptance of loss: “You’re fading from your bones/And night has found your armour rusting away.” Similarly, on Anything Goes, Jim sounds like a soul in retreat from the confusions of modern life, his plaintive acoustic downstrokes embellished by an exquisitely spare piano accompaniment. It’s only Time Machine here that previews the fuller arrangements that would mark Green Peppers’ re-emergence in 2007 with Domino Mornings.
And in a parallel universe one in which hit singles aren’t determined by expedient connections and the affordability of radio pluggers it was no great stretch to imagine Honest Injun blaring out on the breakfast show. Clearly, Jim must have fancied its chances too. He went to the trouble of arranging a video for the song, but the day before the shoot, Del Amitri’s Justin Currie who tackles the lead vocal on the song broke his arm. As a result, that’s Jim you can see in the finished film, playing Chevy Chase to Justin’s Paul Simon.