The Duckworth Lewis Method – Sticky Wickets (2013)
When I reviewed The Duckworth Lewis Method’s “début” album a few years ago, I theorised, quite confidently, that, surely, it would be a one off. After all, how much mileage is there in a group specialising in songs about cricket? Turns out there’s enough inspiration for at least two albums from The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon and Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh to indulge and fuse their love of the sport and classic pop/rock. Their new album “Sticky Wickets” (originally conceived to have an album cover lampooning The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” which would have been great) is a smashing helping of fun and, although it doesn’t match up to Hannon’s main body of work, it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable piece of entertainment and there are a few choice tracks which make this a more than worthwhile purchase and will appeal to the vast majority of fans of both of the main players. The inclusion of Crowded House’s Nick Seymour on bass as well as a plethora of special guests including Stephen Fry (on “Judd’s Paradox”), Daniel Radcliffe (on “The Third Man”), Henry Blofield (on “It’s Just Not Cricket”), Matt Berry (on “Mystery Man”) and more famous names than you can shake a cricket bat at on “Nudging and Nurdling” make this a star-studded affair.
The first highlight is the catchy “Boom Boom Afridi” which has a chorus that sticks in your mind way after the album is over. “It’s Just Not Cricket”, a song about fair play, is certainly one of the best songs on the album and “The Umpire”, a beautiful piece of music about the lonely world of being one of the game’s law-upholders, is perhaps the most Divine Comedy-like track on this release and could easily have come from any of Neil’s last few albums. The seriously excellent “Third Man” tells the story of the fumbler who gets stuck in that position, dreaming the game away and features some inspired, jaunty strings (all arranged by Hannon). There is even a near-disco pop song, “Line and Length”, boasting heavy beats, scratching and eighties synth sounds which is many times more hook-laden and enjoyable than it really should be. “Mystery Man” is a brilliantly catchy, bouncy, insanely good song which should put a smile on the faces of most listeners and “Nudging and Nurdling” is one of those songs that refuses to leave your brain, even when you want it to.
Much has been made of Duckworth Lewis Method’s love of The Electric Light Orchestra and, given some of the write-ups I’ve seen, you’d be forgiven for putting the album on and expecting to hear something straight from the pen of Jeff Lynne, however, if that was what you were expecting, you would be disappointed (or relieved, depending on your opinion on the bearded one). There are moments where you can tell that they’ve paid homage to Lynne’s music and production style, but this album has an individual, distinctive character to it and the wide range of styles and genres of music on display here, as well as the great creative minds of both Hannon and Walsh, mean that if you want to hear “Out Of The Blue”, you should go and play that, rather than hoping for a “Concerto For A Rainy Day” on “Sticky Wickets”… derivative, this isn’t.
So, is it as good as the first Duckworth Lewis Method album? Well, not quite, but that was always going to be a tall order. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a seriously good album, tremendous fun and a really accomplished piece of masterful musicianship which only becomes apparent the more you listen to it; fine purveyors of melody Walsh and Hannon make writing classic compositions and arrangements sound easy, just as the very best batsmen make the game appear easy to play. Much of it is very easy on the ear indeed, is delightfully whimsical and should be immensely pleasurable to existing fans, even if it may not win them any new ones (apart from within the cricketing fraternity, perhaps?). All-in-all, The Duckworth Lewis Method’s “Sticky Wickets” is a superb summery sporting soundtrack (which you can enjoy immensely without even liking cricket) and a more than worthy companion piece to their 2009 self-titled début. Worth the gamble, I’d say.