Come On Folks, Settle Down
, July 3rd, 2012 11:02
Where does 'whimsical comedy song' cross the line into bona-fide indie-folk? The best acousticy-singer types, from Emmy the Great to Billy Bragg are genuinely funny, while the finest comic songs, those of Isy Suttie or Tim Minchin, set the jokes amid proper tunes and real melancholy. Gavin Osborn walks that line more than most, having appeared in actual comedy clubs, the Edinburgh Fringe and a series of story-telling shows with tweecore comedy king Daniel Kitson, whilst also traversing the above-the-pub folk circuit, having Hefner's Darren Heyman produce 2009's lovely Meeting Your Heroes album and alongside Kitson, touring with Belle & Sebastian.
His third proper release, Come On Folks, Settle Down pulls the two strands tighter. A concept album of sorts, it's a record about contentment and the comfortable (over) familiarity of marriage and fatherhood, about realising you're a grown-up and being actually okay with that, thank-you-very-much. He asks the big questions: who sleeps on what side of the bed and who makes the tea? There's a playful way with words here which resonates with those of a certain age, “I prefer the slow pace of tea drinking to on-the-move lattes” he sings on 'Over Thirty', “I get more pleasure from test matches than I do from the one days”, nailing the worldview of the grown-up indie kid in the album's most satisfying couplet.
Alas Come On Folks, Settle Down misfires occasionally. 'Brian Cox' feels a little slight, perhaps in need of an audience's laughter to bolster the energy, while 'That's How I Know' is sweet but never really soars. There's plenty to enjoy though, when Osborn hits the balance between silly, sentiment and sadness things really start to happen. 'Albert Went Out To See Rock Bands', the tale of the titular septuagenarian sneaking out at night to indulge a new found love of metal is completely wonderful, on form Osborn has the chops to match the best in comedy or music as a storyteller. 'Holding It Together' updates McCartneys' 'She's Leaving Home', replacing stuffy suburban bewilderment with the wobbley-lipped reserve of modern middle-age. For any parent whose seen a child fly the nest, or indeed anyone that cried at the end of Toy Story 3, it's a proper gut-punch.
Osborn is at his best when he's weaving melancholy between the punchlines, combining both to make something stronger than either. On 'You Were Invincible' it takes the potentially mawkish and makes it beautifully human, while 'Such A Cheeky Rascal' spins actual, heartfelt warmth out of a song about a small van. By the time album closer 'The World Is At Your Feet, Little Man' sees Osborn addressing his baby boy he's earned the right to be properly sentimental and to the lump in the throat that comes with it.
Catchy and clever but never cloying, pulled along by Osborn's plaintive and affecting voice, Come On Folks, Settle Down is a genuine, wistful treat for anyone finding themselves past thirty and seeking a soundtrack to a good brew.