6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Probably their best album,
This review is from: 0898 (Audio CD)
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.