I am frequently asked about my top albums of the year to which I shrug my shoulders Gallicly and mutter in Arabic to confuse my interloper. The truth is I haven’t a clue. I am not a journalist who gets sent all the new releases to review and I haven’t heard half the albums that are making other people’s lists. As you have probably noticed, I mostly write about old records. I may be in a position to tell you the best album of 2012 in about 2018. I have been playing catchup with music ever since a child when growing up in Beirut meant that there was no historic accuracy to the music played on the radio, confused even more by my father’s wildly eclectic tastes impinging on my consciousness.
However, I can say with absolute certainty that one of the best albums to be released this year is Our Arthur’s ‘Humour Me.’ The band’s name may sound like a lost Northern comedian from yesteryear (not helped by having a track called ‘The Tommy Cooper Affiliation Society’) but even a cursory listen will have you reaching for names as diverse as Paddy McAloon and Jason Pierce. The opening track ‘Reputations’ is gossamer light, the voice floating on acoustic guitar and a song about new beginnings as befits a new moniker for mainman Andrew Arthur Jarrett. ‘The Company They Keep’ musically is early Tim Buckley complete with bongos and Lee Underwood guitar, whilst the vocal is Prefab Sprout, accentuated by Paula Knight’s Wendy-like backing vocals. It is a song of beauty.
I have a confession to make: I have an aversion to mouth organs – they set my teeth on edge – but the one on ‘Stories of How We Never Got Anywhere’ is relatively painless. The lyrics presumably reflect on Jarrett’s previous bands whilst the tune itself is not unlike a slowed down version of ‘All My Loving’ – if you’re going to steal a tune, it’s always a good idea to purloin from the best. ‘Strange About The Rain’ reinforces what I like about this album. There is always something unexpected going on; here it’s the way a piano comes in sounding like actual raindrops and a fuzzed electric guitar suddenly enters the fray. The introduction to ‘The Sole of Your Shoes’ could not be more Spiritualized if they had Jason Pierce chained to a corner of the bed on an intravenous drip with just enough energy to play his guitar. ‘Torn Anorak”s lyrics are symptomatic of much of the record – the way in which inherent cruelty crushes the sensitive, here in the form of a story about a boy bullied at school. The atonality of ‘Clinging to the Records’ is in sharp contrast to the melodicism of the rest of the record whilst ‘The Tommy Cooper Affiliation Society’ sounds like a lost ‘Blonde On Blonde’ track, with Jarrett even adopting a Dylanesque sneer. The “hard core sex and cigarettes” of ‘Good Conversations’ remind me not only of my sister’s recent invitation to an orgy but also that the quiet, gentle tunes of this album are frequently a cover for barbed and incisive lyricism.
It is no accident that the record label that has released this is called A Work Of Heart for that phrase sums up this album. Our Arthur is that impassioned friend who feels things a little more sensitively than the rest of us and for that reason I love him.
Should you wish to buy this album, you can find it at http://aworkofheartrecords.webs.com/