# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - July 2013

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 30 / 6 / 2013

Miscellaneous - July 2013


After listening to the Duckworth Lewis Method's comical but clever new album 'Sticky Wickets', Ben Howarth in 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' asks if too much of an emphasis is being put on misery in pop music at the moment

Pop music may have changed almost beyond recognition in recent years, but one sure-fire principle holds true: if you want glittering reviews, your lyrics should be sharply focused on your inner pain. John Murry's 'The Graceless Age' is one of the most unremittingly bleak albums I've ever heard. It is also fantastic. Murry has had (is having?) a hard life – drug addictions and near death experiences, which resulted in him losing his wife and home. His songs deal with his experiences in the raw – his lyrics are usually matter-of-fact, brutal and blunt. The music is an expertly crafted mix of Americana, folk and experimental pop: this is an album to file alongside Wilco, American Music Club and the Willard Grant Conspiracy. If – somehow – you've missed the 5-star 'Mojo' and 'Guardian' reviews, and not yet bought this astonishing album, do so now. Curiously – where in the past the 'NME' would try and point their readers in the direction of hard-bitten classics that will widen their range of cultural references – the young people's music press seems to have totally ignored this album. 'Pitchfork' and 'Drowned In Sound' don't even appear to have reviewed it. Instead, 'Pitchfork' lavished praise upon a similarly bleak album – 'Obsidian' by Baths. Ten songs about loveless early-20s relationships, littered by petty cruelty and meaningless sex. Written after a pretty nasty bout of E.coli, these are themes not heard in any of Baths' earlier work. In a recent interview, the man behind Baths (Will Wiesenfeld) all-but admitted that his bleak outlook was little more than a pose. He told 'The Skinny', “I mean, I'm not a hideously depressed, suicidal, apathetic person, but it was a perspective that was inspiring to me. I've always been into dark music.” The music, incidentally, is fantastic – a thrilling combination of twisted electronica with pianos and strings. It has a natural dramatic sweep, but is totally betrayed by the album's appalling lyrics. To have any sympathy with Mr Baths, you'd need a perspective on life that extends only as far as your bedroom door. 'Obsidian' is forty minutes of embarrassing whining, and near-impossible to listen to. The message to aspiring pop stars is clear – if you are as unlucky and unhappy as John Murry, then by all means write about it. If, however, your angst is merely your act, write about the person you actually are instead. Increasingly, the most sophisticated songwriters realise that pop's palette is needlessly limited to love and heartbreak: you can write about anything. This week, I went to see Darren Hayman sing a series of songs about 17th Century England, the English civil war and Witch trials. His songs – rich in historical detail – transport the listener to another time and place, but also have plenty of resonance to modern events. Stepping outside of pop's traditional frame of reference has breathed new life into Hayman's music. Three days earlier, I was at Lords to see the Duckworth Lewis Method – the cricket themed side-project of the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon and Pugwash's Thomas Walsh. They were launching their second album in the Thomas Lord room, named after the man who established the cricket ground universally acknowledged as 'the home of cricket'. If you are unable to recognise that Hannon and Walsh named their band after the statistical system used to decide the result in rain-affected limited overs matches then you are probably part of that tragic breed: people who don't like cricket. Poor you. Needless to say, I love the Duckworth Lewis Method's new album ('Sticky Wickets'). It is catchy, silly and clever. Much of it is heavily influenced by ELO, but there are also show tunes and Kraftwerk pastiches. You can only pull this kind of thing off if you have genuine wit. (I suspect Mr Baths has never told a joke in his life.) At Lords, a room full of people sang along madly to 'Jiggery Pokery', a song about Shane Warne's legendary ball-of-the-century, sung from the perspective of its victim. On the surface, it's a fairly silly song, though outrageously catchy. We weren't, however, just enjoying the song as we sung along. We were reliving a shared memory, laughing at Gooch's 'cheese roll' joke and sighing wistfully at the memory of Mike Atherton's batting (as Hannon said from the stage, “Oh Athers. Wonderful man”). It was the very best kind of pop music experience. Can pop please grow out of its teenage angst phase? John Murry shows that, occasionally, real tragedy can make for inspirational music. But, the rest of the time, pop music should be looking outwards, finding novel ways to depict the world as it really is.

Also In Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll

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