Your Yorkshireman, according to well-documented regional stereotypes, is as wily as a weasel on extra-wily, go-wilier wheels....
Your Yorkshireman, according to well-documented regional stereotypes, is as wily as a weasel on extra-wily, go-wilier wheels. And this beautiful, puzzling and slightly annoying little album is testament to that. The work of DJs/bedroom technoists (and presumably part-time Camberwick Green firemen) Parrot, Buckel & Honer (and various Sheffield pop legends), it succeeds where a hundred others of its ilk have sunk irony-shoed beneath a sea of ersatz bilge, simply because of one clever thought: cabaret. This doesn’t just mean hiring befuddled old bat Shirley Bassey to camp it up on a hopelessly inappropriate track (Propellerheads’ ‘History Repeating’) or abusing Tom Jones’ waning credibility (the recent indie-flavoured kitsch of the ‘Reload’ album). No, this is quite simply states that life IS a cabaret and it’s bloody tragicomic, old chum.
Dignified old-time entertainer Tony Christie and culture-observing wunderkinds Phil Oakey, Jarvis Cocker and Stephen Babybird are among the weirdy performers. Their stage is the grimy environs of Sheffield. Bleak and industrial, it provides the perfect backdrop for the I’s askance musical vision; “The old home town still looks the same/Like a derelict man who has died out of shame/Like a jumble sale left out in the rain/It’s not good/It’s not right”, parps Christie on the Cocker-penned ‘Walk Like A Panther’. People just don’t write songs like this any more! It has the vocal gravitas of a man, a common man, defiant in his invective against his lot, his shitty neighbourhood – it’s brave, impassioned and chuffin’ catchy.
Later, on ‘1st Man In Space’, the Human League resume their fantastically familiar, old-skool electronic pop, and again the futility of striving to achieve, the pain, the fucking dumbness of it all is written all too large: “I was the first man in space on our street… How come no-one wants to know what I saw?”. God, and we all know how that feels.
Glistening beneath the decay and tragedy sits blind hope and moral fortitude. On ‘Stars On Sunday’ (written by Cocker) we are advised to “gaze into the sky and maybe one day we can get there”; on ‘Nicola’ (El Jarvo again) Christie croons to his illegitimate daughter, urging her to learn by his mistakes, it is profoundly poignant.
Between these incredibly epic and charmingly old-fashioned songs is the music glue that Parrot calls his “industrial gunk” – tracks of jumbled-up, bass-heavy beats, which, while imbuing a love of straight-ahead instrumentation, allow for a little lite-entertainment (the best of which is the chart hit ‘Beat Goes On’) and thus the album fulfils the true criteria for cabaret – a mishmash of varied entertainment.
‘Pickled Eggs & Sherbet’ is a bit too eau de Cocker at times (hey, can’t you just smell that chip shop ordure?); indeed, his trademark jerkily breathless rendering of his own ‘Drive Safely Darlin” is a bit typical, a bit too ‘him in Pulp’. And at times the thing lurches with a kind of sub-Barry Adamson funkiness, but it’s clever, entertaining stuff, nonetheless