Posted by: ben | May 26, 2009

focus: the duckworth lewis method

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Ben: Here’s something a bit special. Both Dan and I are massive Divine Comedy fans and have been anticipating any new release from Neil Hannon since 2006’s Victory for the Comic Muse and his release from Parlophone.

When Neil revealed in a radio interview last year that he and Thomas Walsh of Pugwash were recording a concept album of cricket songs, we were hardly enthused. Cricket pop?! I mean, really?!

We’ve been talking to Thomas Walsh Duckworth on Twitter and he’s very kindly sent us a promo copy of the album ahead of its official release on July 6th.

Does it bowl us over or is it as good as England’s current batting average?

(Cor, that sounded like I knew what I was talking about!)

Given that this is a bit of an exclusive, it’s probably best to go through this track by track with a few opinions at the end. So, without further adieu:

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The Coin Toss:

Ben: Inevitably, a brief track in which Hannon and Walsh introduce themselves and the theme. It’s not going to make any compilation discs but works as an intro.

The Age of Revolution:

Ben: It’s been available on their MySpace page for months and appears here in much the same form. Crunchy, synth-heavy pop with unusual horn sample from Bix Beiderbecke (thanks, Pete!). Great single fodder.

Dan: The track that grabbed my attention and made me realise that this was going to be a proper album, not a misguided side-project. A proper song to hook you in to the mood of the record.

Gentlemen and Players:

Ben: Harpischord-driven Hannon pop.

Dan: The key phrase with this one is “Sunday Afternoon”, as this is a lighter, more relaxed song that encapsulates the lazier approach to summer.

The Sweet Spot:

Ben: One of the album’s highlights for me. A chugging seventies-ish romp which, aside from the title, isn’t hugely crickety. A little reminiscent of Belle & Sebastian’s White Collar Boy.

Dan: Another rousing romp through pop which should have you in a jovial mood, ready for the next track.

Jiggery Pokery:

Ben: Silly solo piano track in which Hannon tells of Shane Warne’s international debut. Loses points for beeping out the swearword which was included on the early demo version.

Dan: I agree with Ben about the swear-removal. It seems wrong, considering how unnoticed it would go in this ridiculous track.  The music matches the motions indicated in the verses, but the chorus is too vaudeville. I think it’s one of the weaker tracks, but it’s slowly growing on me.

Mason on the Boundary:

Ben: My other favourite track. A light, languid, summery glowing pop song, it has a lazy laid-back vibe all the way through punctuated by Matt Berry’s great monologue. Another ELO influence – this time, it’s like Need Her Love. Don’t let that put you off, though!

Dan: Another lighter track, but one of the more cricket-heavy songs. It doesn’t detract too much from the song, though. The monologue is brilliant, and possibly the best part of the track.

Rain Stops Play:

Ben: A sorta rejigging of Diva Lady b-side Premonitions of Love. Brief instrumental lull.

Dan: The musical interlude of the album, it sounds a lot like something from the Ocarina Of Time soundtrack, bizarrely.

Meeting Mr Miandad:

Ben: Bounces along like nobody’s business. The banjo from Mother Dear returns to set this off.

Dan: Ben’s going to hate me for saying this after I gave my reasons for disliking Jiggery Pokery, as this track is a bit circus-pop too. But it’s not as blatant, and as such this is one of my favourite tracks. Very catchy.

The Nightwatchman:

Ben: Like Mason on the Boundary, this is another lazy song though this time much more anthemic. You could imagine hordes at concerts rocking back and forth to it slowly. A bit sinister with a great string line. A real grower.

Dan: This song is instantly reminiscent of (mildly obscure Divine Comedy b-side) Edward The Confessor, which is only a good thing. A lovely track which doesn’t have so much to do with cricket.

Flatten the Hay:

Dan: An Edwardian style track with a lazy summer atmosphere. Very relaxing.

Test Match Special:

Dan: My other favourite track, a bombastic pop song about the love of cricket, and watching it. It gets bonus points for a silly ‘Stop… Carry On’ style pause in the middle.

The End of the Over:

Ben: The sun goes down, the birds sing, the album ends. Drips with the last few rays of sunset.

Dan: The outro track, which recalls the musical style of the intro track, ‘The Coin Toss’, before fading into the twittering birds that provided the background to the opener. A fitting end.

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Ben: Over the past few months I’ve mentioned my lust for summer pop music and how every attempt I made was only partially successful. Thankfully, the delivery of this album coincides with the first really hot weekend of the year – the two complement each other astonishingly well. Bombing around heavily-scented country roads with the windows down, this record puts a whacking great grin on your face that you probably haven’t experienced in years.

Now, the album does have its weak moments and is far from perfect. At times the cricket theme is really, really laboured and detracts from the songs a little but for the most part you’ll be surprised at how little the theme detracts from the feel of the songs.

Because what Hannon and Walsh have done here is take something quintessential of summer and made an album out of it. Cricket doesn’t lend itself too well to big, foreboding, dark pop so what we get instead is a grand, jumpy album of throwaway pop.

When it’s scorching hot during August and you’re reaching for an ice-cold Pimms, you’ll almost inevitably be reaching for this album too. It’ll be put back on the shelf come October but it’ll be great fun while it lasts.

Dan: I listened to this a few times on Sunday, and I enjoyed pretty much everything the album could offer. It’s splendid summer pop mixed with a few laid-back tracks, all of which Hannon has become known for. I spent my Bank Holiday Monday afternoon listening to this album again, and this time I really, truly appreciated it for all its worth. Not that I didn’t before, but the setting was different, and it allowed a better view of what the point of the album was.

Monday afternoon rolled around, and brought glorious sun with it, instead of the predicted rain. Determined to make the most of the weather, I poured myself a Pimms and Lemonade, grabbed a book, and sat outside to enjoy the afternoon. I’d also opened my living room windows, and whacked this album on again. As I sat there, basking in the heat, every track clicked into place perfectly. The raucous introductory Age of Revolution, the bouyant Sweet Spot, the breezy Flatten The Hay, even the bumbling Jiggery Pokery all felt crafted specifically for the purpose of listening to under a cloudless sky.

Usually, I find albums have a track or two worth skipping. It’s rare to find one that can be left to itself, but here we have one. I’m not saying that it’s a perfect album, but there are a few weaker spots, and the cricket theme dips in and out of favour, but The Duckworth Lewis Method is a thoroughly enjoyable album. It’ll get put away with the sun in September, but until then, this is the soundtrack to your summer. Pour yourself a drink, sit in the sun, and enjoy.

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Responses

  1. A cracking review lads, I’m really looking forward to the release now! Edward the Confessor you say! Certainly NOT a bad thing!! 😀

  2. If the Ashes get rained out, it probably won’t be so fun. With the sunshine though, it’s bliss. You’ll love it!

  3. Sounds great. Splendid review.
    I’ll just continue to be insanely jealous over here!

  4. Well done boys! A very good review 🙂 _Still_ looking forward to the album.

  5. I want that album now soo much !

    great review !

    • It’s not too long before it’s out. If you’re very impatient, we’ll be running a competition within the next few weeks to win our promo copy to get to you ahead of release!

  6. Thanks for the brilliant review which whets my appetite for this album still further … and puts my mind at ease that it doesn’t matter if I don’t actually like (or understand) cricket!

  7. As plugged on R4 Today Programme but not yet mentioned as far as I know on TMS… must make sure the boys get a ‘view from the boundary’ during the Ashes.

    Can’t wait till it’s out!

    • Thanks! It looks like we’re neighbours – Basingstoke is just down the road from us and is where we usually go to eat noodles. Shame there’s a big lack of teashops and decent record shops, though.

  8. […] focus: the duckworth lewis method « teatunes […]

  9. Basingstoke about half an hour from me… I’m on the Hants county border… and a total tea leaf, but of a very ordinary sort! It has been joked that

    a) I will be first making tea after Armaggedon
    b) if left to soak in water I will infuse it gently

    the Age of Revolution single is out at the end of June I gather… it was the juke box item on Radio 2 drive time tonight as I came off the M3 at Hook… I promise i voted it a hit!


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