As England spectacularly ceded their 1-0 Ashes lead at Headingley in 2009, in need of solace I turned to the Internet, whereupon I discovered a mad mixture of Electric Light Orchestra, Monty Python, The Beatles, in the shape of the music video for Meeting Mr. Miandad. It was possibly the only thing that could restore me at that dark hour. The light shone, England won at The Oval, and the DLM were enshrined in my collection.
Since then, it’s fair to say that The Duckworth Lewis Method have been my favourite cricket-themed musical ensemble. Let not the fact that there are no other cricket-themed musical ensembles lessen the weight of this praise. I do not see them losing their Raging Turner Golden Helmet in the foreseeable future.
Cricket and music seem to rarely meet. This may be a mercy: quality over quantity is to be preferred. Certainly when I have mentioned the DLM concept to others, I have all too often sensed doubt, vague dismissiveness, and mild scepticism; a suspicion, not necessarily aired, that my musical judgement is being swayed by my love of cricket.
This is understandable, but also a shame, because on purely musical terms, the Duckworth Lewis Method’s eponymous debut raises its bat high. This is serious music. The opening track “The Coin Toss” quickly recalls Electric Light Orchestra. ELO sounds feature heavily throughout the album, right down to the last delivery, “The End Of The Over”. The Beatles are clearly there as well, not to mention The Kinks.
Yet it’s the way that cricket terminology, history, and concepts are woven into each track that makes it such a cerebral, not to mention catchy, delight. Sometimes a cricket term is merely repurposed in a different context, as in “The Nightwatchman”, a melancholy ballad that might be about a promoted lower-order batsman, or on the other hand might be more appropriately applied to an agitated lover. You decide. At other times an issue in cricket lends itself to the theme of an entire song. “The Age of Revolution”, for instance, is a comment on the shift of power away from England to its former colonies: “Always denied entry / by the English gentry / Now we’re driving Bentleys / Playing Twenty20s”.
It’s all good-natured stuff, especially when you get to “Jiggery Pokery”, a Flanders-and-Swann style narration from inside Mike Gatting’s head as he receives That Ball. Hannon and Walsh publicly apologised to Gatting for the artistic licence taken; Gatting was not, as the song claims, out for a duck. We’ll forgive them that. We’ll also forgive the occasional meandering that tracks such as “Gentlemen and Players” and “Flatten the Hay” take; while pleasant enough, one feels that they could be tightened up just a bit to make them more compelling. The punchy “The Sweet Spot” and “Test Match Special” more than make up for them; the latter would make a jaunty substitute for its namesake’s current theme “Soul Limbo”, should it ever decide to change it.
This should be required listening at the start of every season. Every Test. On the way to any match. What comes out of this album, more than anything, is sheer joy. It’s a jaffa. A peach. Actually, scratch those terms, associated as they are with unplayability: not at all the right idea. Play it from the rooftops. Play it from the pavilions. Play the music on its merits!