BEAU – The Last Confessions Of A Saboteur (Cherry Red BEAULC1)

The Last Confessions Of A SaboteurIncredibly, on The Last Confessions Of A Saboteur, his 18th album for the label (released digitally), Trevor Midgley is in as sharp a satirical form as ever, this time, again armed with his 12-string, the tabloids, cancel culture and champagne socialism amongst those under his withering gaze. Cascading chords set things in motion with ‘Shipwrecked Island’, a song that turns the age old tale of the castaway into one of isolationism, murdering the other crew survivor and taking care no snoopers passing by see any sign of his being there. A circling fingerpicked pattern is the framework for ‘Publish And Be Damned’, the phrase made famous by the Duke of Wellington in response to being told that an illicit affair with a famed prostitute was to be revealed in her forthcoming memoirs. It’s been taken up as a flag of defiance by the free press in the face of those who would bury the facts, but when Beau notes his song celebrates “the guardians of our liberty” you can be pretty sure it doesn’t. Instead it’s an attack on “the perspective camouflaged as fact” approach adopted by the tabloids as the lyrics cite such fictional (but believable) sensationalist headlines as “A Night In Someone Else’s Bra”, “Nipples And The Living Wage” and “The Duchess And Her Broken Nose” and stories of a dogging bishop and the death of an alcoholic former sports star, his photo “below an ad for Gordon’s Gin”.

Taking his cue from Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, the waltzing ‘The Sound Of The Poulterer’s Man’ affords the character in A Christmas Carol to whom a reborn Scrooge send a boy to buy a turkey for the Cratchits, a bigger role alongside the four ghost who had come to “indict/debase, defile and demean” as means to his redemption, though, naturally, cynicism inevitably rears its head in “those toxins that eddy and swirl in the mire/Will show up again if they can”.

The jaunty ‘The Barbershop Quartet’, from whence the album title springs and I suspect has Sweeny Todd as an inspiration, concerns the dirty deeds done in stealth and secrecy by the metaphorical tonsorial hitmen while those in authority maintain an air of innocence (the current Post Office debacle comes to mind) where “rhetoric and reality are really not the same” and there’ll always “be singers in a barbershop quartet”. The wryly amusing ‘Never Trust A Cat’, spun out as a canine diary entry and a feline PhD introduction, runs with the idea that while dogs are loyal companions who regard their masters as gods, for cats it’s a case that they’re the ones in charge, the moral of the tale being that “knowledge is a blessing; unless it’s getting out of hand”.

Not based on an actual person, ‘The Passing Of Eli Mackay (“A Scot with an accent that’s pure Somerset” and “an aura that placed him between Jesus and Santa Claus”) is a morality tale about gaslighting and exploitation as the despicable cocaine snorting rogue is killed by the woman he turned into an addict and looked to force into prostitution, the judge, whose daughter had died from drugs, declaring that in those case justice would indeed be blind. Social media gets a skewed dissing in ‘The Minnow’, a song using piscine imagery about those who use freedom of speech to defend their online “entitlement to be disturbingly vile” about all those they believe are responsible for keeping them down, the sticklebacks, the bream and, above all “those bastards, the Whales!

Few will probably be aware of Noel Godfrey Chavasse, an English medical doctor, Olympic athlete, and British Army officer and one of only three people to be awarded a Victoria Cross twice during WWI, being killed at Passchendaele in 1917 and buried at Ypres. The final line describing him as “forgotten alas”, Beau now returns him to the history spotlight with the urgently strummed ‘Chavasse’, a number that puts me in mind of Country Joe McDonald’s ‘War War War’ album.

Another jaunty tune, ‘A Cautionary Tale’ is what it says on the label, described as about no-platforming “the intellectual equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and going la, la, la”, recounted as a drunken confessional of a “cast-iron liberal” who found herself to be less so than she thought in shutting down an opposing voice. It’s then the turn of champagne socialists and armchair revolutionaries to get the sharp end of the satire stick on the bouncy jogalong ‘Revolution Rendezvous’ (“we sometimes sample this Bordeaux/When planning for the overthrow/Of fascististical regimes/And maybe going to extremes/The vintage Margaux”), a watering hole also providing the backdrop for ‘The Watchmaker’s Arms’, a song inspired by the sort of conversations to be overheard in a spit and sawdust British pub among the sort of clientele who think “what some might consider electoral fraud/Is simply a method of setting things straight/Engaging the righteous before it’s too late”, of WikiLeaks crusaders and crossing the line between freedom of speech and betrayal of trust. And so it ends, words tumbling over one another, with ‘Song Of Accountability’ (almost a musical throwback to the 30s and 40s), a comment on how, in looking to apportion blame, those truly accountable somehow remain under the radar while the more visible are caught in the headlights, or, as he puts it, the order from the top, the “sorcerers of spin”, that “assistant heads must roll”.

The word saboteur comes from the old French saboter, which means to kick something with an old-fashioned wooden shoe. Long may Beau give it some clog.

Mike Davies

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