Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Duckworth Lewis Method -- The Duckworth Lewis Method

The Duckworth Lewis Method -- The Duckworth Lewis Method (Divine Comedy):

Roger Ebert often states in his movie reviews that it’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it. In other words, the subject matter isn’t as important as the treatment of the subject matter. Watching paint dry may be boring, but theoretically one could make a fascinating movie about watching paint dry.

With games that can take forever and a day, some have found cricket to be the sporting equivalent of watching paint dry. Yet The Duckworth Lewis Method have concocted a splendid album, with all of the songs centered around the sport loved throughout the British Empire, and nowhere else. How is this possible?

It starts with the talents involved. First, there is the ever-witty Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy. He is joined by Thomas Walsh, the man behind Pugwash. It is nearly impossible for these two to team up and not come up with clever and catchy pop songs. And the cleverness matters, since these guys have to dig cricket to make this album, but they also appreciate the absurdity of the enterprise. Thus, the two perform these songs in the most tongue-in-cheek manner possible.

Early on, the album simply espouses the joy of cricket for all people. On “The Age of Revolution”, Hannon and Walsh are speaking of people from all over taking up cricket: “kids in the valleys/bats bound together with string.” This call to bats rides over a looped horn part (that sounds like it’s from an old jazz record) and a mild funk-groove. It’s darned catchy.

But remember, this is an outdoor game and that comes through on the Village Green-ish “Gentlemen and Players”. Ray Davies would be proud of this paean to a Sunday spent playing cricket, and breaking for tea in an English garden. Hannon’s harpsichord (!) adds to the stately flavor, as he shows where he stands in this class war...or rather, match: “to enhance the gentry’s chances/they were granted the advantage of an extra stump/but they still couldn’t hit a barn door.”

Once the boys establish the democratic nature of their favorite sport, it’s time to get down to more arcane matters. Whether it’s the bouncy ‘70s rock vibe of “Test Match Special”, an ode to cricket matches between two countries (and only a handful can play test matches) that go on for days, or the Brit-pop perfection of “Meeting Mr. Miandad”, where they fantasize about meeting the Pakistani cricket legend (“it’s our historical phantasmagorical destiny”), they are spot on.

They are especially spot on with “Sweet Spot”. Over a cracking good glam rock drum beat, Hannon and Walsh concoct what is likely the best ever ‘cricket as a metaphor for performing oral sex on a woman’ song ever made. Or at least one of the top five: “I’m down on my knees just to please you all the time/when I hit the sweet spot I see it in your eyes.” Yes, it’s juvenile, but juvenile + cricket = fun!

These are just some of the highlights. There’s also veddy proper piano hi-jinx of “Jiggery Pokery” and appropriately pastoral “Flatten the Hay”. There’s not a googly in the bunch.

For some reason, this album has taken a beating in the British press. Yes, there are no musical breakthroughs here, but the popcraft is exceptional. Maybe they just don’t like cricket. So what. If love cricket, you should dig this. If you don’t care or can’t stand it, it is way more fun.

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