Review: The Duckworth Lewis Method by The Duckworth Lewis Method

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!

Decision

– One of the best albums of 2009, let alone the best cricket-themed album of the decade.

Cricket as classical music

Chris Smith over at The Declaration Game has an enjoyable piece comparing the experiences that newcomers to the world of classical music share with those to the world of cricket. It’s an interesting read, especially considering that both worlds are, rightly or wrongly, often viewed as being elitist, old-fashioned, snobby, or incomprehensible. Chris segues into a discussion of what commentators do, or refrain from doing, in order to facilitate entry for the uninitiated.

That aside, I fancied riffing on the idea of pairing classical music with cricket. Which musical form best pictures each format? Here’s my variation on Chris’s theme. Don’t take it too seriously: the parallels are slight.

Test Cricket is an oratorio: lengthy, dramatic, and often retelling history that is sacred in the eyes of its enthusiasts. Not the easiest jumping-off point for a newcomer, but may well have iconic and highly memorable sections, revered for years afterwards: see, for example, track 42 below.

</span>http://open.spotify.com/album/70Qakvnp3j7LpOlW4RVlhs

ODI cricket is a concerto, made up of contrasting passages, some of which may be more or less compelling than others, but all of which contribute to the overall fabric of the work. It’s not unusual to have a bright start, followed by a slower-paced section, and a lively conclusion.

</span>http://open.spotify.com/user/liamcromar/playlist/3nyIdUIIzYJN3TtUPVGRzY

I’m tempted to say that T20 is film music: it masquerades as something classic, appears initially similar, but you soon realise it’s just the same theme, repeated endlessly, hammering itself into your consciousness. Yet that isn’t fair, and doesn’t reflect my real opinions of both T20 and film music: both can be greatly enjoyable. It would be kinder to call it a scherzo, a piece that is nominally playful, but can easily be deadly serious. It’s robust enough to stand on its own without any surrounding movements or context.

</span>http://open.spotify.com/track/2Oln8DCTPLhJkT319TClrd

On a slightly more serious note, Chris’s discussion of catering for less-knowledgeable viewers sparked my recollection of another cricket-and-classical-music pairing, although one admittedly tenuously connected with the current subject. Claire Taylor, one of the Wisden Cricketers of The Year in 2009, is a violinist with the Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra. The APO run a scheme that allows anyone who hasn’t ever heard a live orchestra to receive a free ticket.

Could a similar scheme work in cricket? I don’t know how it could practically be administered to prevent abuse. The Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra appears to rely on the honesty of its guests. I doubt this would work on a large scale in cricket, without resorting to recording details of who has used the scheme and checking ID; too onerous, one would think, for the average county cricket club. Yet the benefits would be similar: a whole new world could potentially be opened up for the newcomer. Hearing a live orchestra is light years away from listening to Classic FM. Attending a cricket match in person is nothing like watching it on TV. Not that there’s any live cricket these days on free-to-air TV for your casual UK viewer. It may come down to a shootout between Classic FM and TMS.