5.04.2007

The Beautiful South: Welcome To The Beautiful South


Kim Kirkpatrick: Two former members of The Housemartins, Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway formed The Beautiful South. While similar in pop smoothness to their previous band, The Housemartins, The Beautiful South was a phenomenal improvement in my opinion. The Beautiful South is more catchy, more cynical, musically more upbeat, but also far more sinister underneath the sweet, smooth sound. If one did not pay attention the polish and slickness produced by these fine musicians might push you away. Might even bring to mind Steely Dan’s lifeless perfection, which has caused Bob and I (for decades) to quickly leave any space they might be audible.

I think The Smiths or Belle and Sebastian are a better way into The Beautiful South. Belle and Sebastian share the diversity of vocals and musical instrumentation that The Beautiful South explored for over a dozen releases. A similarity is there in The Smith’s catchiness, brilliant lyrics, and creativity through the years. Most important, and I’d say unique to both bands, is their consistent dichotomy of upbeat, driving music, and depressing, cynical, sarcastic, often hopeless lyrics.

Welcome To The Beautiful South was released in 1989, and was an impressive debut, producing three singles that charted well on the UK charts. “Song For Whoever” made it to #2 and remains one of my favorite songs by The Beautiful South. Written from the point of view of a songwriter who moves from girl to girl for pop music material, using his experiences to hopefully reach the top of the musical charts.

… Cheap, never cheap
I’ll sing you songs till you’re asleep
When you’ve gone upstairs I’ll creep
And write it all down

Oh Shirley, oh Deborah, oh Julie, oh Jane
I wrote so many songs about you
I forget your name (I forget your name)
Jennifer, Alison, Phillipa, Sue Deborah, Annabel, too
Jennifer, Alison, Phillipa, Sue Deborah, Annabel, too
I forget your name
Another rockin’ pop song, “From Under The Covers” is an odd blend of Dire Straits and Herb Alpert, and about oversleeping.

And he’ll blame his clock
Or he’ll say he’s lost his socks
And they’ll tell you that he’s been bitten by a snake
His excuses are an art
From the bottom of his heart
And he thinks of them whenever he’s awake
Sixties funk, tribal (ala Peter Gabriel style) thumping, African high life, Elton John piano styling, calypso beats, wives buried in walls, too much to fully cover here. I find (all these years later) Welcome To The Beautiful South and the follow up, Choke (1990) to be my favorites, though I own many more of their releases. After eighteen years together, albeit with line up changes, The Beautiful South announced (in 2007) they were breaking up due to “musical similarities”.

Perfect.

2 comments:

  1. Oh the memories you've stirred with this one. Beautiful South was one of my first introductions to brit pop and Woman In The Wall still manages to make me bust out in smiles (while spontaneously bounce around the room) whenever I hear it. Thanks for the reminder of one of the first bands to clue me in that maybe there was more out there than what I was hearing on the airwaves.

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  2. One of the great things about Song for Whoever is that most people just thinks it's a beautiful, romantic love song. But how can anyone think "The number one I hope to reap depends upon the tears you weap" (supposedly after breaking her heart) is a romatic line? Pure genius!

    Their 1998 album Quench is one of my favourites; if you don't take the melancholy too seriously the lyrics can be downright funny in a "who comes up with that!?" kinda way. Not to mention enough innuendo on Perfect 10 to make anyone's day. Their former Housemartins buddy Norman "Fat Boy Slim" Cook helped out with what they call "open rhythm surgery", which makes for some great, well, rhythms.

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