If this website had been around in 2009, we’d have been raving about the cricket-themed album released by Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh as The Duckworth Lewis Method. The eponymous album was a sublime slice of humour and joviality cutting through whatever bleak indie rock shit was clogging up the airwaves at the time. Therefore, the duo’s second album has arrived with perfect timing – not only are the Ashes nearly upon us, but did you see the musical pubes that clogged up the Glastonbury coverage this year? Good grief. So it was with more than a smidgeon of anticipation that we
loaded the vinyl on to the turntable, popped the CD into the hi-fi, fired up Spotify to see what Sticky Wickets is like.
The album features several guest appearances, including Blowers, Bumble and Harry Potter. Their contributions are generally asides and backing comments that don’t really contribute much to the songs (can you guess who says “Start The Car” during Boom Boom Afridi?), but ably assist in the marketing of the album to a prospective audience of cricket-fans. We can only assume Geoffrey Boycott was busy recording vocals for the next Daft Punk B-side.
A bit like Essex’s batting, the album doesn’t get off to a great start. The title track tries to be rockier than anything on the debut, but the result is a bit turgid. Boom Boom Afridi is more typical of their earlier sound, but lacks wit and soon becomes tedious. This is followed by It’s Just Not Cricket, which not even Henry Blofeld can lift beyond the level of ‘not bad’.
Things get better with The Umpire though, which actually sounds like a Divine Comedy song but with lyrics adapted so that the chorus refers to cricket. It’s actually gorgeous, which is not something that can usually be said about umpires. Third Man is also pretty good – though Daniel Radcliffe’s interlude narration is a tad pointless – and sounds vaguely like something from Madness’s Liberty of Norton Folgate album, which is no bad thing.
The variety of styles on show on the album is apparent with Out In The Middle, which comes straight out of the 1970s west-coast soft-rock school. This is followed by Line and Length, which uniquely combines the rhythm of M’s Pop Muzik, the style of Swedish singer Robyn and the basics of bowling. Next up is The Laughing Cavaliers, an oompah drinking song with rowdy ra-ra vocals.
Predictably, Stephen Fry pops up to recite the words to Judd’s Paradox but this manages not to detract from a fine song that has its heart in post-colonial socio-political commentary, or something. Mystery Man takes the beat from Belle and Sebastian’s more up-tempo numbers and adds a list of every kind of ball ever invented. For some reason Matt Berry then reads a fiction scorecard over the coda. If that ending wasn’t bad enough, the final track is the self-indulgent Nudging and Nurdling – a song that seems to only have been included so that Hannon and Walsh can show off their famous mates.
We can’t help feel that they should have just made the one album, for this does not compare well with that genuinely great record. There are a few very good songs, but these are too infrequent. Mind you, if it hadn’t have been for that debut, we’d be saying this is an unexpected success in managing to get a whole pop album about cricket written, recorded and released (and with a fair amount of airplay). However we don’t think we’ll be giving this a listen during the inevitable Ashes rain breaks – not when we could be watching youtube clips of Liam Plunkett in the Commonwealth Bank series instead.