BEAU – Kingdom Of The Blind (Cherry Red BEAUKOTB1)

Kingdom Of The BlindI’ve said it before and will inevitably say it again, Beau is a refreshing throwback to the 60s when political and social satire was afforded UK mainstream television slots, long before the more crass efforts of Spitting Image, and each week the troubadour of choice would deliver some pointed barb on a particular issue or personality.  He’s been doing that now for some 13 albums since resurfacing via Cherry Red in 2012, each loaded with witty, incisive observations and commentary. Kingdom Of The Blind, his 14th, continues in the same tradition, this time round taking in such topics as PTSD, social media algorithms, revisionism and the war in Ukraine, a songwriting sapper digging away at the foundations of the self-important, the pompous and the plain pig-ignorant bastions of contemporary society.

Musically, he rarely strays far from his basic picked or strummed musical template, his voice skating up and down the scales, but it’s the words that are important here, the album opening with ‘Right Side Of History’, a song about the transient and revisionist nature of fashionable attitudes and how only those of the 21st century are smugly held to have value and merit where “it’s brilliant, being so free to attack/Those we know can never fight back”.

A similar notion informs ‘Compassionate Ways’, a lament for the way being ‘woke’ has stifled debate, the inebriate in the lyrics having written a song “about old times when we’d disagree and quarrel and argue quite vehemently” before “we grew older and learned to look constantly over our shoulder” and “misrepresent people as fascist who offer dissent/And others as racist who don’t swallow whole the virtue that we in our wisdom extol”.

There are 14 tracks and I don’t intend to dissect each one, but all contain fuel to fire lengthy debate and discussion as well as pithy put downs and observations, such as how, surely with Messrs Trump and Johnson in mind, “the scallywag makes an untrustworthy guide”. I would though, direct you to some of the most potent, such as ‘Varsity Man’ which sets its sights on “the self-serving bogus elite” that we generally refer to as ministers of the Crown playing networking leapfrog, the Guthrie-like ‘Feedback Loop’ and its comment on polarisation in society (“I believed what I was reading/Only read what I believed”), the Ukraine-inspired fable of ‘The One-Eyed Man’ and the social-media puncturing  ‘Impure Thought’ (“my favourite social media app/Apparently was searching hard/For heresies to disregard…’Cos our opinions count for more!”).

There’s a nice line in self-deprecation on ‘Reassuring News’  (“I must confess, I feel a fraud…I think I always knew/I’m utterly unqualified to write the songs I do” ) which amusingly reassures that everyone’s a fraud, his doctor only moonlighting to help prune the waiting list (“I’m totally unqualified, but I make a decent fist”), while ‘Exceptional’ is particularly timely with its reference to the May elections and a silver-tongued candidate (“I’ll have you know he got my vote, and as we quickly learned/Constituents in droves can pretty easily be turned”).

Arguably, however, the most impactful is the moodily strummed ‘Skin In The Game’, a fictional narrative inspired by incidents of serving and forme2021 case in Lakeland, FLA. where Corporal Bryan Riley, a former Marine marksman, went on a killing spree. It ends in splendid form with ‘The Dystopian National Anthem’, a sly pastiche synthesis of tropes and terms that are common features in such anthems across the world, such as how “the strong will stay, the weak will pay” and a pledge to “give loyalty and love, /In sacred blood, in brotherhood/And a fearful iron glove…when cell-doors clang and traitors hang/From sea to blood-red sea”. Indeed the phrases “skulking vile assassins” and “Every latent foe will perish” are lifted verbatim, the latter from ‘God Save The King’.  In the kingdom of the blind, Beau is the one-eyed man we really need to see ourselves.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

There are no videos from the new album yet so go to YouTube and wallow in nostalgia.