Best Tracks: Gentlemen and Players; Jiggery Pokery; The Nightwatchman
For those of you that don’t like cricket, I feel sorry for you. You’ve never known the complete bliss of basking in the afternoon sun wearing a daft, wide-brimmed hat, with a pint of real ale and flattened marmite sandwich, lazily watching top-class sportsmen battle it out in the middle. Then again, you’ve never known the exhaustion that follows staying up all night to watch the Ashes coverage from Australia, or the pain of seeing yet another England batting collapse, so I’m not that sympathetic.
Two people that clearly do like the thwack of leather on willow are Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh, aka The Duckworth Lewis Method, for this album, a side-project from their respective day-jobs as leaders of The Divine Comedy and Pugwash respectively, is clearly a labour of love.
A cricketing concept album will not thrill everyone, and I’m not going to pretend that those not familiar with the sport will get as much enjoyment out of this record as those who are. What everyone will get, however, regardless of sporting taste, is an album rich with melodies, imaginative arrangements, and fine vocals. Although some of the lyrics provide double meanings (see The Night Watchman, which could be interpreted as much as a lover’s declaration of loyalty, as it can a tail-ender’s desire to avoid dismissal before stumps), the cricketing references do come thick and fast, and those without a knowledge of Mike Gatting, Shane Warne, Javed Miandad, or Merv Hughes might be left utterly baffled at times. As someone who is familiar with these names, however, the lyrics are hilarious, poignant, and sometimes moving, and make this album a perfect tribute to a sport I adore.