[12 January 2003]
OK, heads down again, rockers. It’s time to plunge ahead (again) into Eternal Recurrence, that noisy wheel that routinely spits out nice chunks of reconstituted pop sounds every few years. Digesting backwards and tossing forwards, it’s the way creativity works, how Now Sounds are nudged out of the old box. So we have the Dudley Corporation, a Dublin power-trio that has balled up the melancholy sentiments and noisy dynamics of the Wedding Present (circa 1991) and tossed it off to us in the form of the excellent new LP The Lonely World of the Dudley Corporation. They call it “Mamrock” but you know you’ve heard it before. But remember that in 1991, the Wedding Present was regularly accused of recycling the larynx of Joy Division and the attitude of the Smiths to spin something utterly unoriginal. Yet, the Weddoes’ Seamonsters is one of the finest albums I’ve ever heard, and this lonely world of the Dudley Corporation is a scintillating variation of exactly that sort of sound. Eternal recurrence, I love it.
The Corpo—as the Dudley Corp. is called in impolite company—know their strengths. Guitarist/singer Dudley Colley has a creamy, whispery, throaty voice that thrusts itself up into tenor territory when the emotion requires it, and he tunes his guitar to the same alternately bracing’n'relaxing sound. Bassist Pip Moore knows how to attack his thick strings for that noisy momentum, and how to nimbly settle into the melody on slower numbers. And Joss Moorkens! This drummer rivals the Weddoes’ Simon Smith in the way he suddenly shoves some serious rapid-fire noise in your face as often as he’s allowed.
Recorded at Glasgow’s famous indie-charmer Chem19 Studio, all of the tracks on Lonely World have a full, warm, detailed sound, and they fall into two distinct categories: slow, and fast. I like the fast ones. Luckily, the album opens with one of ‘em, “Score”, which has a funny opening line (“Doh ray mi asshole”) and a bitter reference to an old Au Pairs tune in the lyrics (“D’you get the letter? / Did it make you feel better?”). Other great fast ones include “God Only Knows”, whose speedy rumble hints at either woozy carnal decadence or kept sexual fantasies (“You dance inside her and you wake up in sweat / But she’s never there when you open your eyes”), and the wonderfully noisy “Divil the Bit”, which turns revolutionary ardor and generational angst into lust (“And I’ll start a million fights for you / And make you want my best ideas / And take me home”). A bit of crumpled-sheet candor propels “Slowed in Motion” into a quick (under two minutes!) stratosphere of communion (“Cold, but I don’t care / Then you turn, kiss me, and set me off”). Great tunes, all.
Still, the slow ones have their charms, and there’s something really endearing about Dudley Colley’s voice throughout. Cello from the Delgados’ Alan Barr gives the meandering and almost dirgelike “Quick” an atmospheric calm, and again the lyrical plot happens entirely in bed (“Then she asks me to be her blanket / I pull her closer and watch her sleep”). The two mournful closing tracks are quite striking. “Hed” has a weepy coupla minutes where Dudley Colley moans in a Morrissey stylee about an apparently passive-aggressive breakup scene, but the musical saw (I think that’s what it is) and banjo create a genuinely maudlin atmosphere, and the coda (where band members sing “I’ve had my heart ripped out again” over and over) is both over-the-top and quite memorable. Finally, “The Out Song” is a beautiful closer, with aw-shucks jangly guitars, naked love poetry, and some heart-rending chanting mixing with a rising tide of guitar noise.
On the whole, The Lonely World of the Dudley Corporation is somber, noisy, and poignant. But hardly lonely. Many of the songs are bedtime scenes, with Dudley himself staring at his sleeping mate or sexing it up, which gives him a leg up on his truly lonely forebears David Gedge and Morrissey. I can’t tell whether the anonymous women who pass through Dudley’s bed have dissed him terribly, or he’s just yet another guy who Can’t Love. But all of the songs hint at a sense of grandeur and melancholy, and my most favorite moment on the album is the medley of “She Falls” and “A Song Against the City”, an apt condensation of their art into a convenient pair. “She Falls” puts an old breakup into geographic context with the enigmatic couplet “All those tears / Welcome home”, which stretches and echoes in your head until the wonderful explosion of “A Song Against the City”, a noisy rant where Dudley ripps down a metropolis (Dublin?) with righteous abandon: “I’ll pull it apart, I’ll tear off its face / And watch it kick and scream and plead / The ambulance will go mee maw mee maw mee maw mee maw…”. In fact, “Song Against the City” is by far the album’s highlight, and you gotta wonder if its sense of lusty anger—political anger, by my lights—is what can motivate this band to truly great art. Let’s hope so: word on the street is that the Corpo are back in the studio to record their second album. In the meantime, buy this one. It’s really quite good.