Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Shire of Your Mind/ A Reprise

Any band that, like Lindesfarne, has two songs that reference sausage rolls is, by my calculations, a good band. Quod erat demonstratum. I’m thinking they’re talking about the British greasy spoon snack favorite and hangover cure, not some sort of lame rock rod euphemism. Either way, you get a sense for where their allegiances are. The Kinks wrote about tea. For Lindesfarne it was sausage rolls.

There’s a definite Middle Earth vibe to the guys in Lindesfarne. But they would have been the scuzzy hobbits who hung out on the smoking patio during lunch break. Squinty eyes. Radical facial hair. You imagine that they would bob their heads a lot and stroke their beards for just a little too long when someone told a good one. British hippies. Lindesfarne rocked the enchanted vocal harmonies, complete with wispy fog and a hint of peat smoke. Standing stones are implied, though they don’t get too Druidic, mostly because their warrior instinct has been blunted by too much doobage. Unlike that supremely annoying tattered pedophile character from Jethro Tull, Lindesfarne's derelict stance seems to be genuine. They don't need any codpieces or ratty trenchcoats to give you the creeps, even as they get all angelic. Talk of free love sounds kinds of icky coming from these guys. In another time, they might have been the type of young men whose amorous overtures consisted of an inappropriate eagerness to give backrubs. Musically, asymetric strumming patterns, fearless cow bell, and genuine North Country flavor make up for the occasional Thistle and Shamrock excesses.

But Lefty, who turned me on to Lindesfarne, has already expounded on the band [see archives for more on the sausage roll theme]. They're sort of like the Southern fiction writers of British hippie rock: for Lindesfarne it was all about place -- the Tyne (from "Fog On the Tyne") is a river, the band's name is a town, and Dingly Dell, is, I guess some bucolic spot too. The reason for this post is that I was reading Kyril Bonfiglioli's After You With That Pistol, the second of the Charlie Mortdecai "mysteries" recently (If you've never read or heard of Bonfiglioli, you really have to look into it. The Mortdecai books are like a cross between Charlie's Angels, P.G. Wodehouse, Lawrence Sterne and Charles Bukowski, really. A fat fornicating self-interupting sybaritic art-dealing drunk gonzo whose thuggish man servant, Jock, is like some James Cagney meets Jeeves, or one of the disturbed characters from "Upstairs Downstairs"). There's a section of the book in which Mortdecai is forced to attend a female assassins' college called Dingley Dell (Dickens wrote about Dingley Dell, too, in The Pickwick Papers, and there's a town in Mass. with that name, and one in Australia as well).

Dingly Dell is the band's third record, and you can already sense that they're sliding into an unfortunate phase. But "Poor Old Ireland" is both lovely and a little insane in a way. The song seems to be about the long hardships of Ireland, but there's some viral empathy at work: the universe suffers along with Ireland. You can get a re-issue of this one on disc, but I'm not sure I'd go in for the whole disc. It's spotty, and what's worse, the re-issue doesn't include one of my favorite things about it: the original cover (my copy was loaned to me in a stack of great old vinyl by the ever-provacative and musically encyclopedic Alan Bisbort). Is there any other band that's employed a hammock on a record cover? Must be, but I can't think of it, and surely no one has ever rocked the "two dudes in a hammock" variation so successfully. Extra points for the inclusion of the family dog (cropped out of this shot).

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