I've already done a much more detailed review of this album, but I forgot to include a few important details about this excellent collection of songs:
Firstly, 'The Beautiful South' have always used excellent artwork or meaningful pictures to illustrate their front covers and songs. Check the excellent illustrations on the front cover here, and in the album sleeve itself, drawn by David Cutter. Each song is accompanied by a wonderful, and most of the time quite surreal picture, to compliment the often surreal but always fascinating lyrics. Some of them you'll know the meaning of, but songs which are more difficult to understand ('You Play Glockenspiel, I'll Play Drums,' where the picture shows a man watering a load of hands that are growing from the tennis court he's standing on, that seem to be growing from little plants themselves. All this, and an attractive green hedge at the back. What the hell is this about??? Amazing stuff anyway). It was reported that the illustrations here, which were the same ones used on the covers of the songs they released as singles ('36D,' 'Old Red Eyes Is back,' 'We Are Each Other' and 'Bell-Bottomed Tear,') actually put a lot of the record-buying public off from buying both the singles and the album. A possible explanation for both the album and singles not selling as well as their first two. Actually, I think this album was their worst-selling album out of all of them. However, you still got at least two fairly big hits, and one extremely 'famous' song 'Old Red Eyes Is Back.' Check the front cover of the album, with those creepy turtles with the same woman's face on, but showing different facial expressions on each. This represents the many different moods of people in the album; the many different emotions one goes through. I think the faces on the turtles are to do with people 'being taken for a ride' - Some because of their own vanity, etc. others due to things beyond their control.
It's a shame about the sales in a way, although while it's still available to buy, those serious music-lovers who don't already own this, should buy this and one day the sales may escalate to make this what would deservedly be 'their biggest selling album.'
The most disturbing and surreal of all the pictures in the sleeve accompany possibly the most poignant and despairing song on the album 'Bell-Bottomed Tear.' The picture shows a woman lying in bed, but her face has alarmingly been swiped away, so you see the insides of her head in all gory detail. Where has it gone? To the front cover maybe? Probably gone to be taken for a ride by those pesky turtles (or whatever they are). Incidentally, doesn't that woman's face look uncannily like Jacqueline Abbott's (ironically, she'd join the band soon after this album, replacing Briana Corrigan on vocals)? 'Bell-Bottomed Tear' is a heart-rending tale, the female part excellently sung by Briana, of a woman who meets up with an old flame after some time, to tell him of her struggle to bring up the 'bastard' child they produced alone: 'This is the woman you laid, this is the woman you laid' Briana cries out. They recall a one-night stand, when the baby was conceived, where 'The pillow I lay on it's cold and it's wet...can't pretend.' (again, we're brought back to the woman on the bed, where her face has been taken away; possibly she feels/has been used) The woman obviously still has feelings for the man, but the man in his defence sings 'There's a tear, there's a tear, not through confusion, through fear, not through confusion, through fear.' The male parts are sung nicely by Dave Hemingway, and the listener is left wondering whether they'll get back together or not. My guess is no. All this and a beautiful, lilting melody; what more could you want?
Hopefully you too can be educated and influenced by these lyrics. Paul Heaton is one of the best songwriters of the last 20 years, and musically 'The Beautiful South' are excellent. Check this out and you'll see what I mean.