Two of pop’s most studious classicists, Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy) and Thomas Walsh (Pugwash), converge on what could only be considered a monumental summit for UK pop fans, bestowing on the listening public a concept album – about cricket. Not about some girl named Cricket, but the veddy European sport thereof.
This could be very bad.
Fortunately it isn’t; in fact, it’s very good, and good news for anyone who likes their music tasty on the ear and cheeky with the tongue. The very notion of a conceptual album devoted solely to cricket as being a ridiculous idea is not lost on the boys, but at the same time, they are respectful and reverent to the whole thing, playing it less like a Monty Python farce and more like a Rutlesian good-natured poke in the ribs. They came not to bury but to praise. The Rutles inference is apt as both Hannon and Walsh have appropriated the Beatlesque in the past, and the opening “The Coin Toss,” for all of its minute and eight seconds, knocks your guard down straight away. After that, “The Age of Revolution” slips into a fine groove complete with a skiffle-jazz sample and a treatise on how the upper-crust sport of cricket opened up to the common man and the fields at Lord’s were never the same.
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Other highlights are the gorgeous “Flatten the Hay,” the comic highlight “Jiggery Pokery” featuring Gilbert and Sullivan-like wordplay, and the glam thump of “The Sweet Spot,” marking the first time in pop where sex is the metaphor for sport and not the other way around. Yet, if the album only had “Gentlemen and Players” on it, I’d be giving a glowing recommendation anyway. It’s only three minutes and 19 seconds, and it’s about a sport I don’t give a rat’s passport about, but this XTC doppelganger parlour pop is as sweet as an ice cream sundae.
Now, you might be wondering if you can get over the spurious trappings of the concept in order to enjoy the music, and you’d be right to wonder. To my knowledge, this is the only collection of tunes devoted solely to cricket, and American songs devoted to baseball, football and basketball have all distinguished themselves in one unifying way – they all suck. I expect that once you’ve hit play and these songs spill out of whatever audio conveyance you prefer, you won’t sweat who Javed Miandad is, but will gladly welcome the song devoted to him.
Some team-ups remind you of why you love particular artists and they get you psyched for their mutual returns to home grounds. Fans may be waiting anxiously for a Resurrection Of The Comic Muse or the next Pugwash (due in September, it’s called Giddy) but The Duckworth Lewis Method just might get you hoping for a box seat to the second test.
The Duckworth Lewis Method at Amazon.com