Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Boring films, I'm your guy (Huge Terrence Malick fan). Dry, pretentious novels, yep (think 1Q84). The overly dramatic in music – that’s where you’ll find me (David Sylvian, Peter Gabriel). I tend to overthink, read too deep, wallow in the ostentatious. Are you with me? Okay then, you will be simply enamored by the Pet Shop Boys' "Cricket Wife," released this month and available as a part of 2021's Annually.

Chris Lowe (the Teller to Tennent's Penn) created the classically inspired instrumental during the pandemic to which Neil Tennent added the lyrics from a poem he'd written earlier. When most of the PSB's creations are collaborations in the truest sense, this piece was more like the virtual partnership of Bernie Taupin and Elton John. The resulting recordings were then mixed into a final track by longtime musical associate Pete Gleadall. The track is described by the Boys as "dramatic," so, count me in.
The term "cricket wife" refers to the spouses of U.K. cricketers, a term not unlike the American "basketball wives," but here the wife doesn't necessarily mean a professional athlete's, simply a "sports widow." The lyrics are challenging, aptly complementing the difficult music with lyrics divided into "movements," the first theatrically setting the scene:
Time has stopped
The air is still
Nothing moves
or ever will
Present tense
is future past…
Time is meaningless, we're told.
The second section is in quotations, the words of the Cricket Wife:
"I'm going home
I've had enough
Call a taxi
I want my stuff
Where are my shoes?…."
Here we need to be speculative. Going home? To her mother’s, from out of a (mental?) hospital, or she is older and leaving hospice? Whatever, she's befuddled and questions her whereabouts. "Get me out…. Where am I?" She "can't remember why or when they brought me here."
For the third movement, the dialogue becomes internal, as if spoken by a narrator or the author of a novel: "Another sigh/ Then sleep to dream." All the unpleasantries of the first scene are replaced by the sound of "girlish laughter." She's young again. The final scene is set:
A sunny day
His turn to bat
The cricket wives
sip tea and chat
She is again part of a group of young wives watching their husbands play a sport that is their first love.
And then the drama concludes with the young-again cricket wife and her husband walking away from the field arm in arm.
They're off together
And that was that
and is forever
The song, like "Penny Lane" is filled with English colloquial eccentricities and phrases, from "I smell a rat," to using the word "innings," which we American's borrowed for our national pastime. It's interesting to note that the obsession with Cricket leads to an important insight into the lyrics – at least for me: the English utilize "good innings" as a way to say that someone deceased has had a good life. In that, much of the orchestral pieces sound like a funereal dirge, it fits right in.
"Cricket Wife" is complex musically and lyrically and takes a half dozen listens until one is obsessed.

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