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.
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