Monday, September 23, 2013

Album Review: Sticky Wickets by The Duckworth Lewis Method

Even more unlikely than a concept album about cricket is a second concept album about cricket. Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh’s first Duckworth Lewis Method Album unexpectedly struck something of a chord, becoming a surprise summer hit and earning them a coveted Ivor Novello nomination.

Sticky Wickets naturally follows the same themes as their debut, but the execution this time is quite different. Part of the appeal of the first record was its sense of pastoral, old-England fields, lazy games and quaint country sports on sunny afternoons. Sticky Wickets, however, is a tribute to 70s pop and prog rock, the work of ELO specifically, a group which Hannon and Walsh have frequently cited as an influence.

The result is an album that perhaps won’t appeal to as wide an audience as the original, but still makes for a dappy, entertaining listen. Tunes like The Third Man and the title track, seem to channel the soul of Jeff Lynne directly (and the more restrained, tasteful part of it), while the lovely Out in the Middle is indebted to fellow cricket fans 10CC, and Steely Dan. The album’s most laugh-out-loud moment comes during Line and Length, an 80s funk pastiche where Hannon deadpans about the physics/geometry of bowling over heavy backing vocals, old-school synths and electric drums 

Fans, friends and cricket royalty make guest appearances, mostly notably Daniel Radcliffe, Matt Berry, commentators David Lloyd and Henry Blofeld, and Stephen Fry, excellently deployed on Judd’s Paradox, the album’s emotional high-point.

It doesn’t all quite work; the production on The Cavaliers and Mystery Man is a touch flat, though gradually builds in both cases to more satisfyingly rowdy finales. It’s also hard to deny that the subject matter is becoming even more obscure: the first album offered listeners a very accessible structured trip through a game start to finish; Sticky Wickets gives you tunes about what it’s like to be third man before starting to reference the film, The Third Man, with Daniel Radcliffe appearing to monologue about the dark streets of Vienna. It’s jolly, but a little distracting for the non-cricket aficionado.

It’s this and the less summery-sound that may make it somewhat less successful than the first record, and ultimately less rewarding for repeat listening. It is, nevertheless, a ton of fun with a few transcendent moments that far outshine its novelty value.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Psycho Bagpuss

Thursday, September 05, 2013

August Film Highlights

You can of course visit the blog.

Wadjda (2012) Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdulrahman al-Guhani, Sultan Al Assaf. Dir: Haifaa al-Mansour.

Wadjda 50 Word Film Review
A Saudi Arabian girl is determined to have a bicycle, no matter what convention dictates. A Middle-Eastern Bicycle Thieves. An appealing struggle against adversity and injustice with a feisty heroine you can really get behind. Superbly acted and very funny, but with real tragedy and serious issue at its core.

Edvard Munch 50 Word Film ReviewEdvard Munch (1974) Geir Westby, Gro Fraas, Johan Halsbog, Lotte Teig, Gro Jarto, Rachel Pedersen. Dir: Peter Watkins.

Life of the famous painter, his upringing, influences and the hostility his work faced. Using his pseudo-documentary style, Watkins presents not a biopic, but a dense expression of the elements that contribute to Munch’s works, from relationships to contemporary society. Fascinating exercise, but occasionally hard to follow and very long.


Piccadilly (1929) Gilda Gray, Anna May Wong, Jameson Thomas, King Ho Chang. Dir: E.A. Dupont.
Piccadilly 50 Word Film Review

A London club dance act is no longer pulling in the punters, so the boss decides to employ something more exotic. A decadent and lavish depiction of Jazz age London. Exquisitely filmed and tinted, it’s surprisingly sensual and admirably disapproving of racism, although story is touch stretched for run time.


Fear X (2003) John Turturro, James Remar, Deborah Kara Unger, William Allen Young. Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn. 

Fear X 50 Word Film Review

A security guard obsessively watches CCTV tapes in the hope of finding who killed his wife. Moves between paranoid thriller and more straight-forward conspiracy thriller, as if it can’t quite commit to either, before going completely Lynch at the end. Not without interest, but the story just isn’t that compelling.


(2013) Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi. Dir: James Mangold.

The Wolverine 50 Word Film Review

The destitute hero is lured to Japan by a dying friend with a proposition. Suffers from the same issues as Marvel’s own productions – weak supporting characters and an over-complicated plot that should be interesting, but isn’t. Action keeps it lively through first half, but that too becomes irritating, and repetitive.


Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) Steve Martin, John Candy. Dir: John Hughes. 

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

A businessman experiences disaster after disaster trying to get home for Thanksgiving. It works because it’s simple and relatable. We get the characters and understand their frustrations. Importantly, Candy and Martin don’t overdo it, knowing it can be just as funny to simmer. A professional work, sadly a rare one.