The Duckworth-Lewis Method @ Rough Trade East
The Duckworth Lewis Method.
Spitalfields Rough Trade East. 13jul09.
If you were to compile a list of subjects on which an album of concept pop might be sold, it is likely ‘cricket’ would not feature high upon the list. In fact, I’d go further, I’d imagine it’d be somewhere near the bottom, between ‘Oswald Mosley’s sock drawer’ and ‘Budget Meals for the Committed Nosepicker’.
Undeterred, Thomas Walsh, formerly of Pugwash, and The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon, have plumped for the cricket option and, if you’ve gone that far, you might as well name the project after the mathematical algorithm used to sort out rain-affected matches (much, I imagine, to the chagrin of the Welsh language minimalist electro artist of the same name). Furthermore, if you’ve found the whole thing perfectly logical up to this point, then you’d meet the notion of them writing a song about a single Test match delivery with a shrugged “yeah, fair enough.”
Mind you, it was a good delivery, it’s not like the song in question (Jiggery Pokery) relates to a Phil DeFreitas dot ball, ably defended on the front foot by Ravi Shastri. Instead it is a Flanders & Swann-like rag that replays, several times, Shane Warne’s first ever delivery in Ashes cricket, from the perspective of bamboozled, but hungry, England batsman Mike Gatting.
It’s not a comedy album, although it is certainly a novelty, and the spirit of music hall softly ‘I say I say’s throughout. That’s not to say it’s myopic though as Sweet Spot provides a glam stomp, whilst Gentlemen & Players comes straight outta the parlour.
Perhaps the whole thing is a little too cutesy and I defy anyone to get through it without cringing at one line at least (I’ll nominate “Now we’re driving Bentley’s, playing Twenty20” from The Age Of Revolution as mine). Yet, as with all Hannon’s material, it remains utterly charming and the interplay between him and Walsh here tonight is equally so. Mind you, I think they thrive on the stubbornly unfashionable nature of it, Hannon announcing Gentlemen & Players by saying “Here’s another song about cricket”, emphasising the final word and following it with a cackle that some might cast as malevolent.
Matt Berry’s treacly-voiced-rakish-cad-for-hire shtick appears not only in cameo on the record but, impressively for a free nine-song set, here in-store at Rough Trade, although his monologue gets a bit lost through a PA which fails to do real justice to any of the songs.
Perhaps to emphasise the music hall element, if Hannon’s striped grey blazer and the arm-less spectacles teetering at the top of his nose aren’t achieving that on their own, they try to get an on-stage game going. However, given the space limitations, Hannon swings and misses several times, before Walsh takes up the bat and proceeds to smack the spongy ball into a front row punter’s mush.
Which is about as ‘in-yer-face’ as the Duckworth Lewis Method get, their songs being so cosy and warm, children could wear them as winter hats and pet dogs would immediately curl up and sleep in front of them.
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