Tuesday, 9 November 2010



Tim Key has been slyly lingering for a few years now.  I have seen him do stand-up, appear in plays (the very fun “Party”), read poetry on Newswipe and perform “music” in a most sardonic and downright abrupt/blunt manner.  Not that he is playing any instruments, more he is quipping over the tune while criticising those playing around him.  Such is his demeanour.  He reminds me of the clever kid at school that disliked everyone.

I have friends who really hate Tim Key.  He polarises many like a bear with a black nose and a white body.  Often he looks like somebody just beat him up.  Perhaps they did.  This is very much a mentality I associate with.

Released on vinyl and download this is a rare object, an album that contains as much studio bickering as it does actual music content.  This is meta music that you can either hate or enjoy but generally before even playing it your opinion of this piece will probably already be formed.

The premise is what it says on the tin: Tim Key with a string quartet on a boat being recorded just like on the Zissou ship in Life Aquatic.  From here Key dips into his ample body of poems as the band illuminate the ambience of the piece.  If Wes Anderson made a record (a good record) it might sound like this.

As a piece of work it covers a lot of ground.  Often the poetry is high brow and entertaining stuff, as are the classical arrangements/accompaniments.  Then there is the bickering between Key and Tom Basden.  Their exchanges sound straight from a comedy podcast and in the banter tradition of Derek And Clive records (sans swearing) as the latter’s participation in recording is teased in a Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington style.

This feels quite a unique record.  There are elements of Ivor Cutler coupled with the surreal meta poetry of a most pompous artist somewhat in the style of a Ricky Gervais creation.  Multilayered this is perhaps often irony spread on irony, truths presented in a manner of pretend when really they are the pure thoughts of a person at their worst.  It’s good to be bad.  And dark.

“I have hired a floating studio.”

Immediately the performance, for that is what it is, addresses death and dining (“I’m marrying dead Claire” Edward announced at the annual curry”) followed by lesser subjects such as dogs, pipes and feeling itchy.

It doesn’t take long for Key to concede this is just an album of a man in a tracksuit reading poems made possible from the money left over from another project.  Where’s the need for people to pressure themselves?

Clocking in at thirty tracks a lot of ground is covered including driving, war, doctors, eggs, goats, plastic surgery, money, dealing with giants, yawning on dates, lies, jumping out of a plane, all of which are addressed in Key’s trademark droll and awkward fashion.

On track 28 is suddenly occurs to Key and Basden that the string quartet (“the treacherous fiddlers”) have abandoned the recording, abandoned ship.  With this Basden finally gets his moment and goes solidly solo with the surprisingly “Lord’s Moment”.

Finally it all ends with “Waterloo” (poem #705) which would be the hit single attached to the album were such a ridiculous conceit entertained in this record.  All encompassing it describes the process of meeting a lady for a date at said train station detailing going down to the South Bank to watch a film with all the grief attached to being stood up.  It is a most painful insight into the existence of being a modern single, about having faith.  As days turn into weeks then into months even in death the man involved remains waiting.  When the date eventually arrives it is too late.  It is always too late.  Sadness accrues madness.

If you like albums that sound like studio outtakes you will like this.  If you like cohesive readings of masterful poetry you will not like this.  Here, for better and worse, is a unique work.  Poems in the Key of life.

Thesaurus moment: priggish.

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