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The Duckworth Lewis Method
Artist:  Duckworth Lewis Method
Label:  Independent (www. www.thedivinecomedy.com)
Time:  12 Tracks / 40 mins
 
This album keeps making me smile. Not in a vacuous, banal, nicely-nice way, but more in a cheeky, lost-in-whimsical-wonder, the-fun-they-must-have-had-with-this-project sort of way. I only have to think of the disc and a grin begins to grow. Why? Because this is all about cricket, at least as much as Midsomer Murders is about solving crimes. While cricket is ostensibly the theme, the real point is the witty way that this pair celebrates it.
 
The two are the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh from Pugwash. Both are Irish, so they are close enough to the English to catch the nuances of our love of cricket, but slightly removed enough to see the oddities of both game and nation. They do to the English in music what Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island did to us in writing.
 
The music and lyrics bat against each other to be the best, but it is a five-day draw. The memorable tunes are remarkably summery and the musical styles are appropriate, changing like the weather to suit the song. The innuendo-led “Sweet Spot” has the groove of Goldfrapp’s chartier side, but “Mason on the Boundary” lives in a musical world somewhere between Caravan and Icicle Works; while “Rain Stops Play” catches the unsophisticated feel of incidental music on TV, when there is no action, but revs it up with a rhythm reminiscent of Hannon’s own “National Express”.
 
Good as the music is, it is the punch of the lyrics that really knocks me out. With what other album this year could you walk into a room to hear the line, “If it had been a cheese roll, it would never have got past me”? That comes from “Jiggery Pokery,” a Flanders and Swann type song about when Shane Warne bowled Mike Gatting out first ball in the 1993 Ashes at Old Trafford (I don’t have to remember it – all the details are in the song). They describe a confident Gatting:
            I took the crease to great applause and focused on me dinner
            I knew that I had little cause to fear their young leg spinner

who, after being bowled out, considered it to be

            Jiggery pokery, trickery jokery, how did he open me up?
            Robbery, muggery, Aussie skulduggery, out for a buggering duck.
            What a delivery! I might as well have been holding a contra bassoon.
            Jiggery pokery, who was this nobody making me look a buffoon?
 
As well as a poppy tribute to “Test Match Special” there is more wonderful wordplay about a dreamy “Mason on the Boundary”. Not content with the line “Mason’s gone to Zanzibar underneath his panama” they get in the phrase “hopelessly panglossian”. Tongues and cheeks come very quickly to mind.
 
The track that brings it all together is “The Age of Revolution” about the way that the game has modernised. Biting lyrics like "Always denied entry by the English gentry/ Now we're driving Bentleys/ Playing 20/20" are set to a unique blend of funky groove and vaudeville riff.
                                                                                         
But words and music work together just as well on “Gentlemen and Players.” It will take you from grinning over lyrics about MPs and top hats (it’s all you hear about in rock and roll these days...) to singing out loud as the chorus bursts in.
 
This is an entirely joyous one-off special. Its references may puzzle non-Brits, but to those even slightly in the know it is the stuff of musical legend. With irresistible Beatles-like melodies, outrageously smart lyrics and a celebratory CD cover that enjoys the same creative wit, this is already a cert for my top ten of the year.
 
Derek Walker

          
 
 

 
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