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I, Ludicrous
Songs From The Sides Of Lorries Mick Middles , October 30th, 2017 12:58

The ninth album from a band who belong firmly in the tradition of angry, magnificent and slightly surreal Englishmen.

It was Mark E Smith who first alerted me to the unique and joyous lo-fi vision of I, Ludicrous. A Salisbury-based trio with a Fall-esque moniker, they impart a wry and steely vision which gathers in little knots of sarcasm hurled from a considered and intelligent lyricism. Not unlike Smith at his most prodigious, although one might also add more than a touch of a British institution-baiting Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. They emerged in 1985 through a flurry of fanzine articles and fell into the grateful hands of John Peel. The DJ must have been elated. To suggest that they were 'up his street' would be an almighty understatement.

It would be difficult to file them next to anything, although one always presumed Half Man Half Biscuit and The Wedding Present hovering within earshot. Pretty much unchanged – aside from the addition of bassist Martin Brett from Voice Of The Beehive (in 2008) – they have now reached their ninth album. As you can probably judge from the title alone, they have lost little of their wry sparkle.

Things indeed begin ludicrously with an echoey Banshee howl - actually the voice of Patrick Lyons introducing the band on-stage at London's Coronet Theatre - which soon dispels into a staggered shock of block chords worthy of an early Subway Sect single. Infectious and daft as this is, it doesn’t prepare the unseasoned listener for the self-deprecating and very British silliness of ‘A Very Important Meeting’, during which oafish media and business types are duly lampooned with simplistic ease: “I've just got back from a very important meeting/ It was a very important a most important meeting.” Be warned, one listen will leave a monotone earworm that is, alas, poised to haunt me every time I visit, say, Media City, where such sentences are often delivered with obnoxious gusto.

While wry observation flavours the entire album, the musical attack remains surprisingly varied. ‘I Wanna Give A Scare’ could be a lost Freshies nugget, such is its dipping hook direct from the lost planet of power-pop, a strange place where young men wear tight suits and thin leather ties. At this precise juncture, it would be difficult to discover further distance from The Fall. The song's promise - to “make your hair stand on end, drive you slowly round the bend” - is, again, not delivered lightly.

Alcoholism and overt gambling are addictions not generally explored with comedic lightness, but they’re the key themes of ‘Today's Man’, a full-on rush of twin denial set to chill the heart of anyone who lingers listlessly in some empty shell of an afternoon pub, pausing only to bark instructions on the phone to their bookmaker. One feels a curious if disturbing warmth for the song's dizzy protagonist, as if such dark thoughts occasionally veer “too close to home and too near the bone” (to coin a phrase).

Fat White Family, a band courageous and/or stupid enough to offer a tour support slot to I, Ludicrous, are referenced on the chugging pile-driver, ‘It's All Free’, a song with the elasticity to stretch from Ian Dury-esque social drama to the remorseless genius of Hex Enduction Hour. One would have thought the new Widnes toll bridge would struggle to make such a connection, but it does highlight the album's true strength - the uncanny ability of a band capable of not even sounding like themselves (once past John Procter's infectious monologue, that is). This happens again on the drawling ‘Roger Dismal’, which affects the grim, hilarious precision of a man writing letters of complaint to his local newspaper. Once again compare this to the next song, the Deviants-flavoured blues tug of ‘Cars N Bars’, which carries this writer all the way back to the kind of pre-punk whimsy one might have found dripping from the stage of The Hope & Anchor in 1974. Don't worry, the chant of ‘It'll All Be Over Soon’ trips ahead to the daft heart of punk. Indeed, Songs From the Sides of Lorries spends its 10 songs zipping recklessly through all manner of era and genre. Some of these songs fly from an era before anyone even knew what ‘genre' meant.

All of which is as refreshing as standing under a waterfall sucking an Uncle Joe's Mintball. A triple album of such infectious ditties would suit me down to the ground. One more thing: when you finish listening to these songs, stand up and stride outside - it feels like walking from a cinema after watching a particularly affecting film. (Which doesn't happen so often, these days.) You do feel as though you have spent time languishing in someone else's intriguing mindset. I can't think of a higher compliment. Bring on that triple album!