12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The finest follow-on since Headingley '81,
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This review is from: Sticky Wickets [VINYL] (Vinyl)
After listening to my Amazon MP3s in the car for a couple of days I was going to give this a four, if only because a couple of tracks, especially the closer Nudging and Nurdling, sag a little below the standard of the rest.
But then my LP copy arrived and the fifth star was straight back in. This is a thing of real beauty - an event in the way unpacking a new album used to be. The sleeve is a proper gatefold, and there's a printed inner with another picture and all the words. And the outside shows to full advantage the little twist the back cover gives to the famous photo on the front. Best of all is the disc itself - wonderfully black, glossy and heavy, with not a trace of surface noise. It looks, feels and sounds fantastic. And (pleasant surprise after briefly havering over whether to order this or the CD) there's even a CD copy of the album inside the sleeve.
And so to the music. Well, I downloaded the digitals on Monday morning before a two-hour drive to Crawley, and I can only wonder what my fellow drivers on the M25 thought was up with me as I grinned, chortled and even at one point clapped my hands in involuntary glee. The album is full of sublimely crickety, musicky, funny moments and references, whether it's the Rolling Stonesy opener, the Beach Boys-esque Mystery Man or every 80s electronic track you ever heard rolled into Line and Length. Along the way we have The Umpire, which if anything improves on the poignancy of The Nightwatchman last time out. And, of course, we have the highest point of all, the best ELO song for 30 years: the triumphant Third Man. Duckworth even turns what might be the disadvantage of the title's 'th' in his favour by exploiting the uniquely Irish scope to rhyme 'villain' with 'fillum' with 'penicillin' as his disengaged boundary fielder imagines dodgy dealings in post-war Vienna.
On reflection, four stars would not have been right; this album deserves five just for existing, and for combining cricket with the influence of Jeff Lynne - and, I should add, of his under-credited strings arranger Louis Clark - more even than its predecessor did. As an album it's delightful; as an LP it's close to perfect. Love it.