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The Duckworth Lewis Method | Superfectablog v3.0

Racehorses in History

June: Fairy Chant
b. 1937
Why: A champion at 3 and 4, Fairy Chant won the Beldame twice. She was in the money for 26 of her 42 races.

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The Duckworth Lewis Method

I know what you’re thinking. But Superfecta, it’s Belmont week! Why are you reviewing an album by some Irish guys about cricket? I mean, come on – you write about the Sport of Kings and, occasionally, the Beautiful Game – what could you possibly know about cricket?

Fear not, dear reader – we’ll get on to Belmont business soon enough. As to why, you may be aware that I’ve been a rather devoted fan of The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon since 1995; after moving back to the US from Britain, I once flew from California to Bristol just to go to a single show. (So, feel free to put a check in the ‘obsessive’ column, although I would hasten to point out that I no longer have the free time or money to enjoy such jaunts.)

While my music fan credentials may be more than in order, it’s true I am not a cricket devotee. I do, however, have the somewhat rare privilege of living steps away from a cricket club (although I suspect I am neither rich enough nor demonstrably white enough to join that one, despite my pale complexion) and I often see the local college team practicing on their own purpose-built cricket pitch. I also had a very wealthy friend in grad school whose luxurious flat overlooked Lord’s – I’m sure spending a few evenings in St. John’s Wood gave me some hazy background knowledge of the game.

Oh, and I’ve seen ‘Lagaan‘ and have been to at least two cricket-themed pubs. That should be a reasonable introduction to the sport, don’t you think?

Fine, I hear you say – just get on with the review!

Very well, then – but first a smidgen more background about how this came to be. Thomas Walsh of Pugwash and the aforementioned Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy are both Irish songwriters who somehow developed a love of cricket (the actual Duckworth-Lewis Method is an incredibly complicated system of calculations designed to overcome game-delay issues in one-day matches) and came together with the intention of creating the world’s finest cricket concept album – and lucky for listeners, they have succeeded – and succeeded far beyond the simple novelty record stakes. On to the track-by-track breakdown!

The Coin Toss
The opening, in which Messrs. Duckworth (Thomas Walsh) and Lewis (Neil Hannon) decide who will bat first. It sets the tone for the album beautifully.

The Age Of Revolution
Musically, a great blend of a 1920s-1930s sound (ideal for tap dancing, although I was good and kept my tap shoes in the closet) mixed with a much more modern sensibility. Lyrically, it’s tough to beat the already much-quoted line, ‘always denied entry by the English gentry, now we’re driving Bentleys, playing Twenty20.’ A great single, all around.

Gentlemen And Players
A gentle sweep though the history of the sport; this song reflects on the irony that cricket’s creators have never been its masters: ‘To enhance the gentry’s chances they were granted the advantage of an extra stump, but still they couldn’t hit a barn door.’ It’s a perfect song for relaxing with a Pimm’s.

The Sweet Spot
Who knew there could be a real rock song (ostensibly) about cricket? Clearly one of Walsh’s creations, it’s a rollicking T-Rexish/Kinksesque number – I could even see Adam Lambert covering this. It’s a great track.

Jiggery Pokery
I must confess this is my favorite song on the album – it ticks all my Neil Hannon/Gilbert & Sullivan crossover boxes. Hannon has crafted a stupendous patter song in the style of ‘Both Sides Of The Coin’ from ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood‘ (so, essentially, distilled Gilbert & Sullivan) about Shane Warne’sBall of the Century‘ from the 1993 Ashes, as told from the point of view of the rather avuncular Mike Gatting. It even has a men’s chorus, and it’s easy to picture this as a fully-staged production number (at least, it is if you’re me). While I’ve never heard any of the songs from the Andrew Lloyd-Webber mini-musical about cricket (nor, really, would I want to), I can guarantee you this would blow it out of the water. I’d love to see Neil Patrick Harris do this onstage – and it makes me even more curious to hear what Hannon has created for his ‘Swallows & Amazons‘ musical. More, please!

Mason On The Boundary
‘The Mighty Boosh’/'The IT Crowd’ star Matt Berry appears in the middle of this track in spoken-word form. (Incidentally, Berry is also the composer of ‘AD/BC: A Rock Opera‘ – if you are a fan of ‘Elephant!’ from ‘The Tall Guy,’ you should check it out.) Oh, and Michael Mason is (apparently) a Kiwi cricketer. Bonus points for including (and rhyming) the phrase ‘hopelessly Panglossian,’ although one hopes it doesn’t reflect too poorly on Mr. Mason.

Rain Stops Play
An instrumental that manages to sound both like rain and like the sort of aged filler music you might come across on Radio 4 – only good. Time for another Pimm’s.

Meeting Mr Miandad
Every concept album needs a travel number – in this case, we have one about taking a VW camper van to Pakistan. I did have to look up Javed Miandad, but having zero knowledge of who he was didn’t matter too much at first listening – there was a banjo, after all, and I love a well-played banjo. I also suspect the subject may have been chosen more for his mellifluous surname than for his specific cricketing credentials, although it certainly helps keep things on message.

The Nightwatchman
A classic Hannon character study in the style of the unfairly-much-maligned ‘Eric the Gardener’ or ‘Girl Least Likely’ – one presumes the titular nightwatchman in question is in some way associated with a cricketing facility, but is that really so important?

Flatten The Hay
This Beatles-tinged track by Walsh reflects on childhood cricket matches in rainy Irish summers – a lovely, languid tune.

Test Match Special
I admit I’ve heard perhaps an hour of TMS in my lifetime – American radio has nothing even vaguely similar. I liken it to a much longer Shipping Forecast (only I have a t-shirt for the Shipping Forecast, because I am sad and geeky, and own nothing similar for TMS). This track is more about the rituals associated with preparing to watch a bit of cricket on television (and by ‘a bit’ this could mean a few days) and it’s somewhat amusing to hear such an upbeat tune associated with a sport that has a reputation for such a slow pace.

The End Of The Over
We had an intro, so we’ll have an outro – it’s a perfect bookend to the album.

Thanks again to the good people at Duckworth Lewis Towers for the promo copy of the album – and best of luck shifting the many, many copies that richly deserve new homes. We don’t really have seasonal pop music traditions in this country (no Christmas number ones, far fewer muddy festivals, etc.) but bringing home some marvelous, sunny songs each summer would be a good one to begin. You can start by buying this record.

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