on 1 January 2004
Infectious sonic horizons, lyrical intelligence, expert musicianship... this is The Beautiful South in all their creative glory; swamping their songs in traditional pop structures, mellow arrangements, and as ever, bitingly cynical lyrics. The mood switches from joyous to heartbreaking at a regular pace, as Heaton casts his ever creative eye over everything from drunken old has-beens, to dirty old sluts, touchy-feely couples, royalist defeat and of course... relationship difficulties.
It sounds miserable but it isn’t. Rotheray’s detailed compositions complement Heaton’s lyrics perfectly, creating a bold and always interesting fusion of lounge jazz and Beatle-pop; whilst Jon Kelly’s multi-layered production elevates the album to the realms of prog-rock perfection. This is most notable on the later half of the album where amazing sonic-arrangements add an atmospheric depth to such songs as Here it is Again, Something that you Said, and the closing number, When I’m 84.
Elsewhere, we find the striking voice of Briana Corrigan who adds an element of dramatic beauty to songs like Rocking Chair, Bell-bottomed Tear, and I’m Your No. 1 Fan, which all certainly benefit from the feminine touch... this was sadly her last album with the band, cemented by Heaton’s somewhat misogynistic composition Mini-Correct on the follow up album Miaow, from which she was sourly missed.
Following on in the tradition of I Love You (But You’re Boring) and Should Have Kept My Eyes Shut from the first two albums, 0898 features one of the best titled pop songs ever. The wonderfully colloquial You Play Glockenspiel, I’ll play Drums not only has the most intricate rhyming scheme of any of the tracks on the album, but also has the most detailed subject matter. Personally, it’s my favourite track on the record, managing to be simultaneously toe tapping-good AND heart-wrenchingly sad.
Needless to say, this is certainly one of the most underrated records of early nineties pop. The music is tight, literate and intelligent and, as mentioned previously, the musicianship of the band as a whole is faultless. It may lack the obvious hits of the first two South albums but that is by no means a criticism. You may just need to take a few more listens to really relax into the mood of the record. At this current price... that’s asking very little indeed.
This 1992 album was The Beautiful South's third and it is my favourite of theirs, combining some brilliantly infectious pop melodies with Paul Heaton's characteristically witty, angry and insightful lyrics. OK, sound-wise the band (for me) never had quite the level of invigoration (or rawness) that Heaton's previous band, The Housemartins, had during their all too brief life, but the highly polished sound of 0898 is still compelling listening. Of course, Heaton has always had a very acute pop music sensibility - which somehow, I'm really not sure why, sits rather oddly with his obviously deeply held political beliefs - and on 0898 he (together with album producer Jon Kelly) has created a sound reminiscent of a number of '1980s bands' (at their very best), such as ABC (listen to the keyboards on I'm Your No. 1 Fan, for example) and Squeeze (for example, the vocal and mood of Something That You Said).
0898 contains a series of sublime songs, featuring alternately Heaton and Dave Hemingway on lead vocal, with Briana Corrigan singing lead on a couple of songs (The Rocking Chair and Bell-bottomed Tear). Album opener Old Red Eyes Is Back is another Heaton account of the perils of alcoholism, an addiction of course from which he himself suffered. This is probably is his most powerful account of the subject, containing some caustic lyrics ('You never listened to a word the doctor said, he told you if you drank another you'd be dead'). Heaton then addresses a series of his (mostly well established) bugbears, with some brilliant lyrics (and melodies) on We'll Deal With It Later (royalty; 'Don't worry if it's Queen or Duke try scything down the pair'), 36D (women's sexualisation; 'I hear you've turned our young men into dribbling clowns'), I'm Your No. 1 Fan (modern day fandom; 'I'm the richly blessed daughter of a mother with tattooed arms, that's the way my family life was charmed') and When I'm 84 (a brilliantly witty take on old age; 'No dribbling or incontinence, no longing for the old sixpence'). Similarly, there is much exuberance and appeal in each of We Are Each Other, Domino Man, Here It Is Again (actually one of the best - and rather atypical - songs on the album) and Something That You Said (which features Corrigan's best vocal on the album).
There is virtually not a duff track here, making this an essential purchase for anyone who likes great pop music.
on 28 January 2004
The third album from 'The Beautiful South' is probably their best. They've always been able to write some at times hilariously irreverent, yet on the other hand, occasionally gloomy lyrics. But with the darker ones, they've always been able to cover them up with some highly uplifting and perfectly crafted pop music. This album sums this up perfectly, as though they've always used strings and piano's in their music, they do that here, while not falling into the trap they fell in with their follow-up album 'Miaow,' where they maybe overdo it slightly.
This album is incredible, in that it's possibly their most uplifting musically, but lyrically it still deals with many dark sides to human nature. They also haven't lost their political agenda, going back to when Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway were in 'The Housemartins.' Themes here include alcoholism ('Old Red Eyes Is Back'), domestic violence ('The Rocking Chair'), the downfall of The Royal Family ('We'll Deal With You Later'), the sleazy lifestyles of 'Page 3 girls' ('36D'), bad relationships ('Something That You Said') obsessive relationships ('We Are Each Other') and ageing ('When I'm 84'). The aforementioned song, 'Domino man' and 'I'm Your No. 1 Fan' are probably the only songs on the album that are generally light-hearted lyrically, though these too have their dark moments. The lyrics are ambiguous throughout, drawing comparisons with 'Morrissey,' where you don't know whether to smirk like a goon, or sigh at the sadness; Usually you do both, which makes it all the more captivating.
The reason this is their best album is that other BS albums have been (only slightly) hindered by the odd one or two weak tracks. There are barely no weak songs here. Their other albums are all still excellent, but not as consistent as this (I can't comment on 'Gaze,' as I listened to it once, and took it back for a refund; didn't have the time for it, although I liked 2 or 3 songs. I generally wasn't impressed on first listen; as most Beautiful South albums/songs hit me straight away). The weakest song on '0898' in my opinion is the closer 'When I'm 84,' and that's still pretty good. The excellent, largely humorous lyrics ("No dribbling or incontinence, no longing for the old sixpence, just smoking weed 'til age makes sense") more than make up for that though. On 'Welcome To...' you have the poor tracks 'I Love You (But You're Boring)' and the clumsy 'Love Is...,' on Choke you have the weaker songs 'Lips' and 'What You See Is What You Get,' on 'Miaow' you have the botched attempt at 'Cod funk' with 'Hooligans Don't Fall In Love' and the good but not great 'Hold Me Close (Underground).'
So there you have it; this should be seen as a classic, but what the 'NME' and 'Q' thinks and what's true are two completely different things. This band is great, and though you should own all their albums, this is most recommended, and a must have for fans of this band, as well as genuine music-lovers who like their music fun, funky, yet also at times maudlin and poignant; and always interesting. Ear-candy for the intelligent is how I'd sum this up.
on 2 May 2014
'0898' is the third album from The Beautiful South and, in my opinion, is well worth buying. The biggest of the 4 singles released - the brilliant 'Bell Bottomed Tear' which only reached #16 in the charts - is definitely the highlight for me but, even so, there are several excellent tracks. Briana Corrigan sings the bitter sweet lead on 'The Rocking Chair', Paul Heaton is on inspired form on 'Old Red Eyes Is Back' and '36D' is a great rock track which probably should have done much better as a single than #46. Overall, this is a quite inspired release and deserves to be re-discovered and added to the list of 'Greatest Forgotten Albums'.
on 3 February 2004
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.
on 2 May 2001
I started to like the Beautiful South since Perfect 10, as I had never been aware of them before (They started when I was only 2 years old). I had Quench and Painting it Red, and then I saw all their other albums in the shop, each of them going cheaply. Realising the bargain, I bought them all immediately, and it didn't take long for me to see that this album is clearly the best of the lot. This album doesn't have a single weak track on it, and almost all of the tracks are upbeat (a big contrast to the next two albums Miaow and Blue is the colour which are mainly down beat.) The album starts off with two of the released tracks Old Red eyes and We Are Each other. We then have a more laid back track called the Rocking Chair, and then it mostly upbeat from there until you get to Bell Bottomed Tear. When I'm 84 is a great end to the album. The best tracks are Old Red Eyes, The Rocking Chair, Domino Man, 36D, and I'm Your Number One Fan. If you liked Quench, or any other upbeat works by The Beautiful South, then you simply have to get this album. If you preferred Miaow or Blue is the Colour, then you might as well get this album, but don't expect any laid back feel to it.
This third album from The Beautiful South, Hull's best musical export, just keeps on going along the path established in their first two outings. Packed full of jaunty, multilayered, jazzy, unique music that hooks you in and gets you listening to the meaningful, cynical, witty lyrics.
From the defence of the drunk (old red eyes is back) to the swipe at lad culture (the domino man) this is track after track of perfect nineties pop. One of the most consistent of the BS's albums, this has no filler. It is an album for those who like music with something to say, and played with meaning by a finely honed and talented bunch of musicians. Classic.
As with all BS albums, the cover art is unusual and visually striking. I have to say it is probably my second favourite cover after Quench
on 6 August 2000
My favourite tracks are Rocking Chair, We'll deal with you later, We are each other and Something that you said. I love all the songs though but thoseare my favourites. I only started to like the beautiful south since Perfect Ten and since then i have being going back and listening to all their previous albums. The lyrics in Rocking Chair are so thought provocking and Something that you said always makes me laugh (not sure why yet)everyoone loves 36D which is also a good track. And can someone explain where Miaow is? I love that album and i so want to buy it! So to cut a long story short, this album is well worth buying, full of terrific lyrics and oh so catchy lines, you just have to buy it!
on 30 December 2011
Remember the 90s? A decade of, generally, unfulfilled promise. Bands that didn't quite live up to hype or expectations? Oasis faltered early. Stone Roses should have, arguably, never come back and the rest? Well, here's an album to buck that trend and waltz confidently into the realms of classics, without troubling an all too self conscious magazine chart. NME recently published the best 50 British lyricists of all time chart and...neglected to place Mr Paul Heaton in there! This is, in many a humble fan's opinion, The Beautiful South's absolute pinnacle. Briana Corrigan delivers her side of the bargain with crystal clear aplomb on The Rocking Chair and Bell Bottomed Tear to the extent that you can't help feeling the band lost some considerable sonic edge when she left. Whilst not every track is a standalone winner this is very much an album that works as a whole and Jon Kelly's production is both understated and underrated. I could write pages and pages on the subject matter but fear I've already said too much. Buy it while you still can.
on 7 March 2011
There are loads of reviews already describing in detail the greatness of the tracks on this album. All I'd like to add is that there is not one poor or even average track on here. They are all great, great tunes for which I know every word even though I haven't played it for probably 10 years (I'm on here now trying to buy a copy as I can't find mine!)
It's hard to pick a favourite track because they are all bordering on the perfect but at a push I'd probably say it is 'Something That You Said' for the Briana vocals, clever lyrics and soaring strings. The production on it too is a benchmark for how it should be done. Every detail in the complex arrangements are beautifully transparent.
This is a genuine must-own album.