Some say that irony is the most valuable and humorous form of social comment in today’s society, particularly considering the growth of celebrity culture that values those bereft of any noticeable skill. Some say that British Sea Power take their ideas beyond the grandiose stagger of their own music a bit too far, littering their soaring rock canon with pastoral whimsy and uneasy eccentricity. There’s some also who say that The Wurzels are a conspiracy sent by country-dwellers (or, as one reviewer once proposed, Satan) to maintain the boisterous bumpkin stereotype and hence ensure that city folk keep orf their laaaahnd.
But whoever these people are, and for whatever reason they say these things, they are worth ignoring seeing as they seem to be spouting utter bollocks. Firstly, irony is often the currency that lets true pop innovators be overshadowed, and for many is the mask of forced wackiness that obscures any real deep-seated affection for, say, S Club 7 or ‘The Frog Chorus’. Secondly, British Sea Power have a sense of enthusiasm and innovation that should be nurtured when other, much duller guitar groups are being hailed as contemporary emperors. And the Wurzels, despite their prevailing controversial status in the rural music scene, have somehow created a late contender for single of the year. And I ain’t even shittin’ you, guv.
This nature-lovin’ love-in does not shy away from the hallowed tradition of split indie seven-inches, with both British Sea Power and The Wurzels choosing to cover a song by the other band. Although such a project is already outstanding by concept alone, the Brightonians’ take on ‘I Am A Cider Drinker’ is nothing short of breathtaking, a slow-burning, ethereal mod-rock-mock-goth epic complete with choral splendour and glistening Spectoral atmospherics. Lyrics such as “I drinks it all of the day... it soothes all me troubles away” are treated with such a breathless mannered melancholy that it comes across like a soft and considered cry for help, replacing the high-spirited nihilism of the author’s original intoxicant ode with a bleak but beautiful tingling shimmer.
Even with such a euphoric variation on the Zummerzet anthem, though, it’s difficult not to be completely taken aback by how the late and undeniably great Adge Cutler’s boys deal with ‘Remember Me’. Granted, it could have so easily been a disaster, some sort of rowdy Scrumpy-fuelled oompah-pah nightmare that in one over-strained “oo-ar” could have stripped the song of any poignancy whatsoever. But, and I say this misty of eye and heavy of jaw, it is a joy to behold. It’s certainly them, taking the swaggering Bunnymen guitar blizzard of the original and crafting it with a vigour that surpasses even their own finest hours. But the lashings of ivory-tinkled humour and what seems to be no small amount of tenderness really bring their rendition into its own, the words at times sung with a vulnerable low-end tremble and at others with a blatant wry cheek (“Yer, what about the uvver ‘alf?”).
It’s child-like, not only because they approach the young upstarts’ composition with an eager sense of wonderment but also because, even in context, they can’t say the words “fuckin’ regime” without letting out a hearty chortle. When this vibe manifests itself in sprawling banter and improvised trumpet sounds, it’s already obvious that the quickest way to your correspondent’s heart is through his sides. Frankly, if a few words of admiration from Barat and Doherty can bring Chas & Dave a swift renewed swathe of post-modern credibility, then this by rights should make a new-found onset of Wurzelmania a dizzyingly real prospect. And who wouldn’t drink to that, eh?
8Thomas Blatchford's Score