CD Review of The Duckworth Lewis Method by The Duckworth Lewis Method
The Duckworth Lewis Method: The Duckworth Lewis Method
Recommended if you like
Divine Comedy, Noel Coward, cricket
Divine Comedy Records
The Duckworth Lewis Method:
The Duckworth Lewis Method

Reviewed by David Medsker


t’s an idea that would have been unthinkable even during the height of the Brit Pop movement: a concept album about cricket. But a peculiar nationalist streak is emerging from the other side of the pond. The long-dormant Madness made an album about the Norton Folgate section of London, and now Divine Comedy ringleader Neil Hannon teams up with Thomas Walsh, of the talented but unfortunately named Pugwash, to form the Duckworth Lewis Method, a reference to the mathematical formula used to determine the outcome of one-day cricket matches when play is suspended. Filled with ELO-type vocal arrangements and piano romps that would make Noel Coward squeal, this album is so British that it should come with a cup of tea and a side of crisps. (Curiously, both Hannon and Walsh are Irish.) It should also come with a bib, since it will have Anglophiles positively drooling. The Duckworth Lewis Method is the best album Hannon’s released in years, possibly ever.

Duckworth Lewis Method

The album begins, fittingly enough, with "The Coin Toss," a piano shuffler where Hannon and Walsh take turns singing as Duckworth and Lewis, rival players deciding which team bats first. Hannon/Lewis wins the toss, and the band then describes the growth of the sport in "The Age of Revolution," which brilliantly blends a ‘30s-style horn riff with a sleazy dance beat. Hannon has his lyrical swerve on here, as he describes the sport’s co-opting by the working class in the last line, "Always denied entry, by the English gentry / Now we’re driving Bentleys, playing Twenty20."

Hannon outdoes himself, though, on the Coward-ly "Jiggery Pokery," where he describes the "Ball of the Century" from the viewpoint of Mike Gatting, who was legendarily schooled by then-unknown Australian Shane Warne. It’s the kind of song that would give Yankophiles hives, with a standup bass and barroom piano providing the main instrumentation while Hannon delivers a chorus worthy of its own musical. "Jiggery pokery, trickery chokery, how did he open me up? / Robbery muggery, Aussie skullduggery, out for a buggering duck." Quite the mouthful, and that’s just the first half. He then launches a pub chant of "Baboon, baboon, baboon" in the second chorus that had this writer’s two-year-old son requesting the "baboon song" for the next week and a half.

Walsh’s songs stay true to his classic pop roots, and serve as a nice contrast to Hannon’s baroque sensibilities. (The two share writing credits on every song, but you can easily tell who brought which songs to the table.) "The Sweet Spot" is modern-day glam, "Mason on the Boundary" is gorgeous pastoral pop, and "Flatten the Hay" sounds like a lost XTC song circa Apple Venus Vol. I. Hannon and Walsh should make a pact to sing on each other’s records from this point on, as Walsh’s pure tenor blends perfectly with Hannon’s mannered baritone.

It’s interesting to look at Hannon’s work since his daughter Willow was born. While his first post-birth album Absent Friends is teeming with melodrama, it also contains "The Happy Goth" and "Charmed Life," and that playful nature carried over to Divine Comedy’s 2006 album Victory for the Comic Muse (four words: "To Die a Virgin"). With The Duckworth Lewis Method, Hannon is looser than ever, and the change in attitude suits him well.

Here is the big question, though: does The Duckworth Lewis Method even get made in a pre-iTunes universe? Say what you want about the downloads killing the album as an art form, but if Hannon and Walsh had to worry about securing worldwide distribution before recording, do they go through with it? Probably not, which means this is an album that exists because of iTunes, not in spite of it. Viva la revolución.

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