Duckworth Lewis Method – Duckworth Lewis Method

January 01, 1970

(1969 Records)


In 2009, the chances for a concept album to have popular
appeal and credibility are rather slim; if that album’s about sport, the
chances are even slimmer; and if it’s about cricket then you’d fancy its
chances to be non-existent. To be fair, you can understand why people might not
get especially excited at the prospect of a record about a sport whose contests
can last for five days and still end
in a draw. And if band names are anything to go by, then this one doesn’t bode
well, borrowed from the mathematical formula devised to determine the outcomes
of cricket matches disrupted by inclement weather. Against the odds, though,
the Duckworth Lewis Method (Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh
of Pugwash) have come up with a cricketing record that’s not only hugely
enjoyable but that also avoids the dreaded “novelty album” category.


Although the album begins with a track about cricket’s
traditional opening coin-toss, pauses halfway for a musical interlude evoking a
rain-enforced interruption in play and concludes with an explicitly valedictory
song, there’s actually no strict narrative progression beyond these structural markers
— no attempt to tell a story in vintage concept-album fashion. The story here
is simply Hannon and Walsh’s obsession with cricket, an obsession that they
indulge through a suite of songs that engage with the sport from myriad
perspectives: from nostalgic, ’60s-pop-tinged reminiscences of a cricket-mad
childhood to a funk-driven meditation on the sport’s history to an anthemic
celebration of Test matches to a musical fantasy about driving to Pakistan to
meet legendary ex-player Javed Miandad.


It’s fitting that a concept album about a quintessentially
English pursuit (albeit by two Irishmen) should pay homage to Ray Davies, a
master of the genre when it comes to matters quintessentially English. That
comes across in the Kinks-y “Gentlemen and Players,” a beautifully
melodic pop tune that doubles as a discussion of the role of social class in
cricket. A million miles from the Kinks — but no less brilliantly observed —
is “The Age of Revolution,” where ’30s jazz collides with ’70s funk
to soundtrack a potted social history of the sport from its amateur origins in
England to its highly commercialized post-colonial context. These two songs, in
particular, emphasize the prodigious songwriting talents Hannon has previously
displayed with the Divine Comedy, foregrounding his knack for balancing witty,
erudite lyrics with catchy music.


The album’s release was timed to coincide with the biennial England vs. Australia Ashes
series, the most storied contest in world cricket, and the finest moment,
“Jiggery Pokery,” deals with that 127-year-old rivalry, commemorating
an incident from the 1993 series. This Flanders and Swann-style piano ditty
finds Hannon singing in the character of former England captain and noted
food-lover Mike Gatting, recounting how he fell victim to
the so-called “ball of the century,”
delivered by the then little-known Australian spinner Shane Warne. (“How
such a ball could be bowled I don’t know but if you ask me / if it had been a
cheese roll it would never have got past me.”)


Beyond their straightforward thematization of cricket,
Hannon and Walsh also use the sport as a creative springboard to go off in
other directions, taking cricketing jargon and giving it very different
meanings and contexts: for example, the brilliant neo-glam stomp, “The
Sweet Spot,” is a double-entendre filled romp about oral sex; by contrast,
the melodramatic, Scott Walker-esque ballad, “The Nightwatchman,”
converts the titular non-specialist batsman into the protagonist of a love song.


The Duckworth Lewis Method’s musical tribute to cricket is
as rich and multifaceted as the game itself, brimming with enough minutiae and
insightful detail to satisfy the hardcore aficionado of the sport. Crucially,
however, it’s not necessary to be an obsessive follower of the game to find
pleasure in this album since these songs are so strong and infectious that it
often doesn’t matter what they’re actually about. Indeed, this might be a great
cricket album but, more importantly, it’s also a great pop album.


Standout Tracks:
“Gentlemen and Players,” “Jiggery Pokery,” “Flatten
the Hay,” “Test Match Special” WILSON NEATE



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