Owzat! Quite agreeable actually.

The Duckworth Lewis Method.  Formerly an obscure equation for guessing the outcome of rained off matches, now the world’s most renowned cricket concept digibongo funk soft rock combo duo.  When Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh of Pugwash hatched the idea of a concept album about the gentlemen’s game down the pub, it must have seemed like the silliest mid off of all side projects.  Yet, nursed to completion and unleashed in the Ashes winning summer of 2009, it was a gratifying success, reaching the top 40 and staying on chart for a good while in the afterglow of victory.  Now the Aussies are back and so are DLM with Sticky Wickets, their follow on, er, up.  On first listen I thought that the idea might be wearing a little thin but this album is a real grower and now I have not been able to feel the summer day complete without a tune or two from it. It’s coming to something when it takes two twinkly Irish lads to provide the ultimate pop soundtrack to a game which thuggish football should have kicked to death long ago, but which is still defiantly thriving (albeit on satellite only for TV viewers).

The two albums are replete with cricket lore and references but you don’t need to be an obsessive; the only prerequisites for enjoyment are an appreciation of the rich and varied emotional landscape of cricket (preferably the long form played for the Ashes) and ELO.  Just in case you aren’t persuaded of the need to hear these songs, here is the selectors’ pick of DLM, appropriately enough the best XI.

Gentlemen & Players

Cricket was a game popularised by usually rich amateurs for whom doing anything so uncouth as playing for money was unthinkable.  Hence the rise of the first class game between two teams, one amateur and one professional.  It was really a clash between toffs and peasants originally but became more civilised and less one sided (the toffs being pretty useless in the beginning) as it survived into the 20th century.  It ceased in 1963 after amateur status was abolished.  This song describes the match in it’s Victorian heyday to an irresistible Kinksy melody.

Meeting Mr Miandad

Javed Miandad is a swahbuckling Pakistani batsman, their highest scoring and highest profile player.  He also may play guitar and be unfazed to find two fans of perplexingly mismatched size on his doorstep after a spur of the moment road trip across Europe and Asia in a VW combi.  At least that’s what is relayed in this jaunty pop song with another earworm chorus.

The Sweet Spot

The sweet spot on the bat where if the ball makes contact it goes where you want for four.  Any other interpretation of this grinding glam rock stomp is incorrect.

Mason On The Boundary

First of several poems to the joy of skulking in the far outfield in glorious summer weather allegedly waiting for the catch of a lifetime.  Swooping choruses and a tinkly piano motif make this a very Pugwashy track but  “Panglossian” is a contribution from Mr Hannon or I’ll eat my box.

Jiggery Pokery

Talking of which…this is clever, witty and ever so slightly smug.  Sung from the viewpoint of hapless Mike Gatting, England’s star batsman who was clean bowled for a duck by upstart Aussie Shane Warne with a delivery of supernatural spin that seemed to defy physics.  Perhaps like Mike you might not relish hearing it too often (and the cheese roll joke is borrowed without credit).

Pedalo

Not on the original album for some reason, but an awesome track – over Beck like squiggly electro riffs and thrashy guitar the pair muse on the perils of the most comedic form of sea transport known to man.  Add off duty England bowler Freddie Flintoff  and shedloads of alcohol and, right there, you have the plot of Speed 3: Pedal or Die.

Sticky Wickets

Takes a while to get going but this Stones/Who rocker is typically diverting.  There may be a double meaning in there too.  Streaker cover star Michael Angelow had a front row audience of two idle players who have been cropped out on the cover because…

It’s Just Not Cricket

Featuring the fruity tones of TMS comentator Henry Blofeld and some surprisingly tart lyrics accusing other sports of lacking cricket’s integrity.  A cosy fantasy but one many people still want to believe.

Out In The Middle

Mason’s team mate too has a lot of time to think as he gets ready to face a hostile bowling attack in the middle order.  The music is easy going soft rock ala 10cc and Chris Rea but graced with the usual velcro melody.

Judd’s Paradox

A string soaked lament inspired by the cricket match in film Another Country and late era XTC.  Cricket as discreet class war again, this time Stephen Fry narrates sounding uncannily like John Betjeman.  The only way this could be better is if it had referenced cult cricket horror classic The Shout.

Line & Length

The technicalities of bowling explained against a snappy syncopated drum loop and stabbing keyboards.  The most current sounding track and one of the best – the electroclash middle eight with Daft Punk synths and girly vocals cooing about aiming for the corridor of uncertainty is genius.

Nudging & Nurdling

Light relief, a cheesy Lieutenant Pigeon instrumental over which a cast of thousands repeat the title.  Intelligibility and accents swing like a Warney delivery but a good time is had by all.

That’s it, so sit back pour yourself a fat Pimms and feel satisfied, now you could bluff your way into Lord’s Long Room!  Who said the DLM was difficult to grasp?

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