Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Like a toddler with a CD player

      I've told you before how much I lovecricket. And one of my other loves is the music of The Divine Comedy. So you can imagine just how much I squealed when I discovered that Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy was half of The Duckworth Lewis Method (motto: Once you cricket pop, you can't stop), a musical double act devoted to singing songs about... CRICKET! Have a squizz at them playing on TMS here I managed to see them perform at Norwich Arts Centre a few weeks ago and now I can die a happy woman.

     An unexpected development from this has been a need to listen to The Divine Comedy over and over again, like a toddler demanding the same. Bloody. Bedtime. Story. Every night. For months. And reflecting that, when Terry Gilliam finally gets around to directing the film protraying the story of my life, the soundtrack is already prepared. And he only has to get in touch with Neil Hannon to sort it.

     The first time I became aware of them was when I heard 'The Frog Princess' And it made me smile a little bit wryly to myself, because it fairly accurately reflected oh, you know, stuff. Not least 'I met a girl, she was a complete mess'. So I sought more of their musicout and loved it. Really loved it.Becoming obsessed with it in the way that teenagers do. And now I am 33, and still listening to them slavishly. I will now attempt, without the aid of a safety net, to convert you to the cause.

     'Generation Sex elects the type of guys you wouldn't leave your kids with.' Written in 1998/99, it's kind of prescient, wouldn't you say Mr Cameron?

     There's a line in 'When a Man Cries' that makes me howl every time I hear it. It's not anything deeply profound, just 'Then she'd take all my pain and explain it away.' but it's the catch in his voice as he sings it that stabs me in the brain.

     And there are some cracking oneliners in his lyrics. How about 'Death by faulty ripcord, or loose carabiner' in 'Thrillseeker' ? Or 'But it's my triumph of will/ Just to stay alive til/ They've spent several mill/ Ion, trying to save me/ Albeit vainly' from the same song? 'Can anyone spare me ten billion quid?/ Why'd you look so glum?/ Was it something I did?' from 'The Complete Banker'? Which also contains a nice little sideswipe at 'Call me Dave' Cameron and 'sweet Samantha'. And there is a certain irony in how easily I took to heart his advice to 'Always to thine own self be true/ Not to fools like me/ Who'll change their minds/ For the sake of rhyming schemes' from 'Life on Earth

     There's a certain poetry to his work. 'Commuter Love' could easily have been sung by J. Alfred Prufrock. There's such a sense of absolute heartbreak and desolation in the line 'Not gonna take any risks... This time.' And of course 'Lucy' which is Wordsworth's poem set to music and may, possibly have influenced the choice of Sue de Nim for this blog. And anyone who can write & sing the following (in The Lost Art Of Conversation) is going to get a jug of Pimm's made for them by me:

     'Hallucinations, Good Vibrations, Van Dyke Parks,
     Greyhound racing, Steeplechasing, The Reformation,
     Transubstantiation, Bram Stoker's creation,
     The land of the Thracians'

'Assume the Perpendicular' Title alone merits a listen.

     I wouldn't say I'm obsessed... Actually, no, I would. I am. I realised this when The Boy started singing 'My Lovely Horse' to his sister this morning when she was pretending to be a unicorn. He's never seen an episode of Father Ted, but when he reached the end he shouted 'We have to lose that sax solo!'
And I do tend to overuse the songs in every day life. Sometimes I like to irritate, annoy and embarrass Aistair and The Blondies when we're out in public. The quickest and easiest way to do this, I've found, is to perform a rendition of 'Have You Ever Been In Love?' at peak volume, in conjunction with a Strictly Come Dancing inspired quickstep. I'll be appearing in the aisles of Queens Road Sainsbury's in the next few days. Tickets still available.

     When I've behaved like an utter bellend towards Alistair, I (eventually) gruffly apologise. And play 'If I were you, I'd be through with me' Perhaps with a dance routine, depending on how badly I've behaved. Similarly, Alistair can't sing. But he makes a game stab at it when he hears 'I like' Partly because he says it was written about me. Also because he knows it reminds me of the Mumsnet Plastic Vadge thread which makes me laugh so hard I give myself a headache. To show my appreciation for his kind gesture, I start bopping around like I'm in Pan's People. I definitely did not have to break off from typing to do just that.

     And I definitely do not break off from whatever I'm doing to act out a Busby Berkeley stylie dance routine to 'National Express' This nonexistent dance routine most emphatically does not involve high kicks, Charlestoning, imaginary top hat lifting, cane pointing and finger clicking in the style of The Sharks and The Jets in West Side Story. DEFINITELY not.

     Fancy a song about Chaos Theory, randomness, and lost love that includes a soliloquy about the future of the world and fearing for the future of your children? Neil's got that one covered in 'The Certainty of Chance'

     There have been so many dire songs written about Northern Ireland I run out of fingers to point at the artists responsible. Here's 'Sunrise' instead, written by someone who actually is from NornIrelandNil. And it's sweetly, cautiously optimistic about the future. Something about belting out the last few lines never fails to make me feel a little more hopeful too.

     And of all the music in the canon of The Divine Comedy, 'If...' will always be my favourite. I once saw this described as the most perfectly deranged love song ever written. Hell, YES. It starts off relatively lightly. And then gets a bit weird, hauled back to something approaching normality, before descending into every wrong thing to say to someone you love. But also the kind of thing that someone a little warped and prone to major highs and lows might briefly think about the one they love. I can't quite look myself in the eye right now.


TheOldestCat said...

I love them too! A Lady of a Certain Age is beautiful and devastating in equal measure.

togster said...

Don't forget my favourite couplet:

"Just pretend you don't see'em,
lusting in the mausoleum."

Lucy Benedict said...

TheOldestCat, I used to think of myself as The Frog Princess... Now, when I'm maudlin/drunk I sing A Lady of a Certain Age instead.

Oh no, you couldn't be...

Lucy Benedict said...

Togster! I really need to thank you again for that link to Geronimo - beautiful little portrait of a song.

I could easily write a second post on The Divine Comedy - I had to edit out so many songs so that this wasn't a 40,000 word novella. And then realise there were so many more I hadn't even got round to. Beautifully crafted chamber pop music with warmth, humour and wit. How can you have a beating heart and not love Neil Hannon?