This review originally featured in The Skinny.
In 2015 a group of scene-defining Scottish musicians escaped from the present to travel almost two decades back to their past. With the space and distance to reflect on their collective youth, revisiting the French town of Mauron where they played a small festival in 1997, they uncover the scale of the impact their exuberance and self-belief has had on the story of independent music.
Lost In France is director Niall McCann’s intimate, innovative portrayal of the mid-90s Glasgow music scene and the rise and significance of seminal Scottish record label Chemikal Underground. It is poignant, inspiring and sincere, and despite missing two crucial characters on the recent trip (Aidan Moffat and Alun Woodward) due to schedule clashes and personal circumstances (though the pair are omnipresent in the film), it’s the story of the interwoven lives of a core group; Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, who along with the inimitable RM Hubbert once booked bands for the 13th Note in Glasgow, Mogwai‘s Stuart Braithwaite and three quarters of The Delgados and founders of the influential Chemikal.
Each character’s tale intertwines, awash with both humour and a sorrowful reflectiveness, every central figure given due focus and reverence. From Hubby baring his soul on a ferry, to tender moments between former Delgados, industry lynchpin and successful solo artist Emma Pollock and producer extraordinaire and drummer Paul Savage; to Kapranos’ slight sheepishness surrounding his band’s phenomenal rise in the face of others’ apparent lack of success, McCann shows his subjects truthfully and sympathetically.
But perhaps the film’s most touching moments – amidst the swelling sense of pride for the central belt’s impressive DIY ethos and creative output, and the enveloping, era-defining soundtrack – come from the emotions shown by Braithwaite and Chemikal/The Delgados’ Stewart Henderson. Henderson’s passion for music, his anger and dismay that the likes of The Phantom Band never stood a chance, and his fear for the records that might never be are all candidly revealed, the bittersweet aftertaste of devotion and commitment to a cause ravaged by a rapidly changing industry landscape.
The event is tonight simulcast throughout cinemas in the UK and Ireland, and this evening most of the main protagonists reunite as supergroup The Maurons following the screening, with Pollock and Hubbert initially the central focus for their co-written Monster in the Pack, all the more beautifully bolstered by tonight’s superb backing band.
Then it’s a tribute to 80s inspiration, with Braithwaite taking the lead to cover The Jesus and Mary Chain and Kapranos and Pollock joining the guitarist for shared vocal duties for a brilliant version of The Pastels‘ Nothing To Be Done. The Franz Ferdinand hit Jacqueline is almost as frenetic and punchy as its early noughties incarnation and it’s a treat to witness Savage on stage behind the kit again. Kapranos returns to the frontman role for the punk romp frivolity of Owl in the Tree from lost favourites Trout before the band departs too soon after just a handful of songs.
DJ sets from the likes of Miaoux Miaoux follow at the aftershow, as does an ear-bleeding, hair flipping, riff-shredding cacophony from more recent Chemikal signings Holy Mountain. But it’s the film that leaves an indelible mark, with its stories that needed to be shared, and its celebration of a musical history that must be preserved, cherished and lauded.