Friday, 5 November 2010

Review from Charlie Brown at The Music Critic

Below is a review of 'Heathcliffian Surly' by Charlie Brown at The Music Critic:

The best thing about singer songwriting balladeer Marmaduke Dando's debut is it’s really enjoyable to listen to because it’s different, original and interesting. How does someone so young have such an old fashioned voice? It’s almost of an another time and place. One of sepia photographs, of melodramatic climax before something sinister slaps us from romanticism back to an inevitable reality.

Heathcliffian Surly is lyrically and vocally honed from that old school that’s close to Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel and Scott Walker but with a modern twist. From the opening track Odessa! to closing track The Last Embrace and all in between, there’s a peculiar freshness. On Life Can’t Get Any Better and the stand out ballad, This I Ask Of You, reminiscent of David Sylvian’s solo work merged with the lyrical sharpness of Nick Cave.

'If this is civilisation I want no part in it' croons young Marmaduke and his horror at the modern world may be well be his own undoing. My biggest worry about this album is despite the great quality of songs, I fear the world may not be ready for something as clever or quirky. Marmaduke Dando could’ve been on the Tube in the 80’s and then next week on a forty day UK tour supporting The Birthday Party, gaining a minor Top 40 entry with an explosive Top of the Pops performance pushing them into the top 20. In fact, if the single was the quirky Bertolt Brecht’s Alabama Song styled Give Me Detumescence they could have even have their very own Frankie and Relax controversy.

This album is worth buying for many reasons. The songs are well structured and the performances from the large supporting cast are first class. Along with the great artwork, the lyrics come in a fold out sheet and they are a remarkable literal treat.

A fantastic album.


Review from Rob F at Leicester Bangs

Below is a review of 'Heathcliffian Surly' by Rob F at Leicester Bangs:

Marmaduke Dando Hutchings (to give the man his full name) is a London based songwriter with a penchant for morose balladry, and frisky drunken jigs. That’s what his MySpace page tells me, and it’s not far wrong. Reference is also made to a family link to pirate stock, and the popularity of Dando’s music within the halls of Parliament. Perhaps that’s true, too. The image of Dando on the cover of Heathcliffian Surly is one of an 18th century consumptive, probably not fit for a life at sea, but certainly healthy and wealthy enough to buy a seat in a rotten borough.

Musically, his influences appear purely European, with scarcely a hint of what we scribblers call rock and roll. Instead it is the influence and heritage of composers like Kurt Weill and Jacques Brel that Dando most liberally borrows from, though feel free to include names like Scott Walker and Tom Waits, who also both know their way around the European songwriting tradition. The results might have been calamitous. We English aren’t known for this sort of thing, especially with material that lives ponderously at the dark end of la rue (see what I did there?). Dando’s no Jake Thackray, sardonic witticisms are decidedly thin on the ground, though a certain gallows humour permeates Heathcliffian Surly, or at least I hope it does. Song titles such as “Dead To The World”, “The Last Drink” and “No Tomorrow” give the game away, though they’re tempered by “Life Can’t Get Any Better” and “Give Me Detumescence”, the latter causing difficulties for both my spell-check and the Cambridge University Press dictionary. I think it’s something to do with the reduction of swelling. It’s that sort of album.

There’s much here to be worried about. The gothic overtones, the carny vibe, the relentless doom and gloom, yet none of it seems in any way detrimental to an album that is undoubtedly one of my favourites of the year so far. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that if I hear a better singer-songwriter album by the end of 2010 it’ll be a Christmas miracle. Check out the man’s MySpace page for further details and to listen to a couple of songs.

Review from Charlie Ashcroft at Artrocker

Below is a review of 'Heathcliffian Surly' by Charlie Ashcroft at Artrocker:

Portsmouth-born singer-songwriter Marmaduke Dando has produced one of those records which make you lean into the stereo a little more intently, or bemoan the fact that background noise is creeping into your headphones from the outside world.

Such is his attention to detail and delicate artistry that you’re left with no other option but to donate your full attention to the album from start to finish. From a vocal perspective, Dando comes across as a slightly more hyperactive incarnation of Antony Hegarty. It also seems fair to conclude that his musical accompaniments are rather wide-ranging throughout ‘Heathcliffian Surly’ – it’s folk music with a twist one minute, Wild Beasts-esque balladry the next.

Opening track ‘Odessa’ is a gorgeously orchestral 41Ž2 minutes, with the air of a song which should have soundtracked a tragic scene in a World War II film, while ‘Life Can’t Get Any Better’ is a quirky paean charting the directness of modern love.

The jazz-soaked shanty ‘The Last Drink’ is also a highlight, thanks to Dando’s wonderful couplet which could well be a statement to contemporary Britain: “You’re hooked on the life of the glamorous drunk/You’ve no idea how low you’ve sunk”.

This is an album which, in the same vein as the previously mentioned Johnsons/Beasts stable, won’t be for everyone, but for those who do eventually enter Marmaduke Dando’s wide-eyed world, they’re in for a treat. It’s poetry in motion for those who indulge in it, rich in texture and full of musical poise. 8/10

Review from JG at Tasty Fanzine

Below is a review of 'Heathcliffian Surly' by JG at Tasty Fanzine:

I'd just finished reading a newspaper article celebrating the 50th anniversary of the legalisation of DH Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterly's Lover' when along comes Marmaduke Dando, acerbically witty singer songwriter in the manner of Neil Hannon, Momus and occasionally Morrissey - and he's a fully paid up Lawrentian to boot : the CDs inner sleeve contains a colourful 100 or so word quote from Lawrence, one which is very unlikely to have seen publication in his lifetime.

Never really struck me as much of a loungebar sophisticate, old DH. Only too easy to imagine him spluttering through his moustache while attempting to put a banjo tune together for that 'Lizard' poem we got at school, in between throwing pieces of coal at nuns and admiring those newfangled 'futurist' ideas from Milan. Unlike Marmaduke Dando, whose musicianship is melodic and restrained, a lot like a sort of edgier Divine Comedy, employing actual pathos as opposed to Hannon's seaside japery.

Gets a bit samey over 10 tracks though, I really was listening out for a musical flourish, for a break from the repetitive keyboard-led strictures and structures, away from the unvarying tone of mildly shocked cynicism, awaiting the arrival of a trumpet or slide guitar or even a female voice to shatter the ever thickening fug of ever decreasing options, the sound of blinkers going on, the entire desperate spiralling that arrives with crushing finality at the park bench and sherry denoument of 'The Last Embrace' ....

Pulp fans, this one's for you!