Written entirely during the first lockdown, and naturally informed by everything connected with that as well as other notable incidents from the personal and political sphere, The Methadone Of Time finds Beau in particularly fine form, turning his distinctive musical style and sharp lyrical acumen on attitudes and arseholes deserving of being skewered.
I’ve previously likened him to such names as Jake Thackray, Phil Ochs, Tom Lehrer and Jonathon Swift, though I think I should add another to the list in the form of Feste, the classic Shakespearean ‘fool’ from Twelfth Night who offered incisive commentary in the form of songs.
Comprising fourteen numbers with wide-ranging targets that embrace binge TV, gotcha journalism, COVID and social media, I’m not going to dissect them all in depth, but several that afford a solid insight into the album’s overall wit and musical methods. First up, written in response to the killing of George Floyd, is the minimally summed, vocally rattled off ‘It’s Time To Fight Old Battles’ and “maybe die but occupy the higher moral ground” followed by the fingerpicked ‘Comedy Gold’, a wry number contemplating how no one could have contemplated the lockdown conditions we’ve now experienced, while the punningly titled ‘Funfair For The Common Man’ has a vaguely tango feel about “those Pinocchios/Who always pull the puppet’s string and make the dummies dance”.
‘Attitude Sickness’ (“There’s nothing like a bit of righteous bigotry”) adopts a misanthropic view of man (”we see it as a virtue, being disparaging and crude”), while ‘The Felon’ imagines COVID-19 as a conspiratorial group seeking to take advantage of the situation but presenting a persona of sweetness and light, except “only felons have dogs you can’t see in the night” and on a somewhat ‘lighter’ note ‘Bigfoot McInnes’ is based on the true story of a man who survived a plane crash in a blizzard by eating the corpses of his fellow passengers.
Those of a certain age will remember Tomorrow’s World, a 60s BBC TV series presented, most famously by James Burke, that unveiled new scientific inventions designed to change the future – the song of the same name wryly suggesting has imprisoned rather than rescued us.
I mentioned music hall influences, and the jaunty ‘A Little Something For You’ is cast as a homage to George Formby and Max Miller’s cheeky brilliance with innuendo, here cast in the world of social media posting. On a darker note, the conspiratorially delivered, waltzing ‘Slip Of The Tongue’ turns the scalpel on the aforementioned gotcha journalism, inspired by a political interviewee inadvertently misspeaking and the journalist refusing to let it go, though it’s hard to know which side of the fence occupies the high moral ground, the idiot with the gaffe, or the press using it to destroy their career, the public baying like hounds on the scent of blood.
‘Self-Made Man’ offers a humorously cynical take on those who claim to have got where they are today under their own efforts, conveniently forgetting their dad’s connections, the boys’ club and the path lined with privilege, the song offering the decidedly Festian quip “I’ve only met to two kids of folk; financiers and fools”.
He returns to social media for arguably my favourite number, the 60s folk protest strum of ‘The Middleman’, a number about how the likes of Facebook and Twitter encourage polarisation, left or right wing, while those who seek to see both sides of an argument are consigned to ridicule by “the dreaded thought police”. And then, there’s ‘Deranged’, a gypsy folk sway shantyish number about the applicability of trickle-down theory to public standards (“with views reflecting different shades/Attracting limitless tirades/What’s the harm in joining in!”) “where every third word has to be the all-pervasive F and C”.
Returning to musical hall territory, ‘Germ an’ Measles’ is an affectionate memory of the UK’s travelling circuses post WWII, headed up by Billy Smart and, the light of Blackpool Tower, Bertram Mills and, in particular, a celebration of their star clowns, here embodied in the fictitious Italian double act of the title, a cocktail of Coco The Clown and Charlie Cairoli. It ends as a lament for their passing with a trademark Beau pay off that “the comedians keep stumbling on/And Me? I’m amazed it all appears true; Clowns look the same as the rest of us do.”
And so, it ends with ‘Man O’ The People’, a wry swayalong commentary on the prophets of hindsight, inspired by bingeing on Game of Thrones, with its own pertinent musing on predicting “how this saga might end”.
Methadone is used to help treat and reduce the withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids, a neat metaphor then for the situation in which we find ourselves in a world where social distancing seems to have been extended to our morals and ethics, the circuses have become social media platforms and the clowns run the world’s governments. Get a fix.
Artist’s website: www.trevormidgley.com
‘The Felon’ – official video: