Highlights: Boom Boom Afridi, The Umpire, Third Man, Judd’s Paradox
A whole album dedicated to cricket is excessive. An idea of one whole band building all their songs around that particular subject is almost maddening. However, as Steve Wynn has proved with his unlikely Baseball supergroup, even the most ridiculous concepts can work – as long as your passion for the sport is backed by a few great tunes.
Another thing that The Baseball Project (the comparisons are inevitable) showed was that the joke can wear dangerously thin after the first album. And given that this is The Duckworth Lewis Method’s second album (their 2009 debut is a gem), they could do much, much worse than this. As it turns out, Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh (from The Divine Comedy and Pugwash respectively) are still doing fine.
It’s that same mixture of melodic baroque pop with the quirkiness of the subject matter, and although blandness sets in on occasion (surely Hannon didn’t have much to do with “Out In The Middle”) and the title track is one big 4-minute cliché, most of the other songs range from really good to almost-brilliant. Standouts include “Boom Boom Afridi”, a slightly eccentric take on The Divine Comedy (complete with a brief sitar break); “Judd’s Paradox”, a pretty ballad lifted by its great narrative sections; and of course “The Umpire”. Speaking of which, screw that ‘almost’ bit. “The Umpire” is brilliant. Even tear-jerking if you are in that sort of absurd mood. And if you care to pay attention to the song’s last words, you will understand the level of perfection they were aiming at. Umpires don’t cry… Hilarious.
Unlikely band, unlikely band name, unlikely concept, but Sticky Wickets still works. I’m not sure I will be bothered third time around (will they?), but for now the songwriting is still good enough.