The key to gaining some appreciation for this album was to read the lyrics. The vocal performance is delivered in this snot-nosed British punk way and Jim Bob’s Southern England accent is so thick there are long stretches where I could only pick out about one word per sentence.
Based on the band’s quirky name, the title of the album, and its light-hearted artwork, you’d expect lyrical content to be whimsical. Not so. This is basically an anti-war album from start to finish. The lyrics are brutally punishing. It’s no wonder “Bloodsport For All,” which addresses racism in the military, had trouble with British censors:
“Suffer in silence,” said Brigadier General Holmes
or change your name to Smith or Jones
Learn to live with all the death threat notes
the big bananas and the racist jokes
“Stand up and beg,” said Sergeant Kirby
lay down, play dead for Di and Fergie
Along with more straight-forward anti-war sentiments, the band touches on what happens to vets after the war. Among other topics, there’s homicidal terrorism (“Billy’s Smart Circus”) and domestic violence (steel your stomach before reading the lyrics to “Sealed With a Glasgow Kiss”).
All of this is delivered at a rapid, punishing tempo that seems warranted when you read the brutally clever lyrics and feel the vitriol being delivered. Until the last two songs where they go all The Final Cut-ish Roger Waters and deliver a couple of tracks that could have served as a connector song on The Wall. But just tacked onto the end of what had previously been a wonderfully unforgiving tirade against the establishment it falls flat. You can tell they’re trying to work in the tragic aspect of the situations with defeat instead of rage, but they don’t quite pull it off.
These guys seem to be carrying on the work of The Clash here. It’s not my style, and The Clash are not a band I’m a huge fan of. I feel like if I were British I’d be way more into this kind of stuff, but the style tends to put me off more than cause righteous indignation. Unless I’m reading along with the lyrics, at which point I’m able to feel it with these guys and realize that this is one of the best of its ilk.
– “Billy’s Smart Circus,” “Bloodsport For All”
– “Surfin’ USM,” “Second To Last Will And Testament,” “Anytime Anyplace Anywhere,” “A Prince In A Pauper’s Grave,” “Shopper’s Paradise,” “Sealed With A Glasgow Kiss,” “Say It With Flowers”
– “Falling On A Bruise,” “The Final Comedown”
Song Notes: After the jump
- Surfin’ USM – virtually an instrumental
- Second To Last Will And Testament – sounds anti Iraq war, too.
- Anytime Anyplace Anywhere – Like Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys. “There’s no such thing as Dr. Seuss.” “Anyplace Anywhere” is redundant and that drives me more nuts than it should.
- A Prince In A Pauper’s Grave – The Johnny Walker song. Slow and dramatic.
- Shopper’s Paradise –
- Billy’s Smart Circus – “The great cucumber robberies of 1989”
- Bloodsport For All – angry. I think I read it was anti-war. “AWOL oh yeah!”
- Sealed With A Glasgow Kiss –
- Say It With Flowers –
- Falling On A Bruise – Very The Final Cut here. And the chord progression is super predictable.
- The Final Comedown – Quotes The Drifters’ “On Broadway” pretty much directly.