Album Review of:
‘A LIFE ERODING’ by SONGDOG
(One Little Indian TPLP1057CDP)
Not Slumdog, or Sundog. But Songdog, the alias used by South Wales singer / songwriter Lyndon Morgan. And you could call this CD a fragmented eleven-track novel from the Beat Hotel, or maybe a Tales of Ordinary Madness short story anthology. Added to Lyndon's rasp of clinker voice, there's Karl Woodward (electric guitar) and Dave Paterson (drums & keyboards). This is their album three from One Little Indian, and whereas ‘The Time Of Summer Lightning’ (2005) and ‘A Wretched Sinner’s Song’ (2008) define the landscape, these new songs show an impressive growth in confidence and technique. Anyone who titles a song “I Got Drunk And I Wrote You A Poem” is fine in my book. Wish I’d thought of that title first. In fact, I probably will. But there’s also “Gene Autry’s Ghost” giving his nudge to precedents a macabre edge, with a girl at the Open Mike night who brags about giving pretty good head. Melodic and impeccably well-mannered it ebbs and flows opaquely around his well-worn vocals. Sure, there are false steps. The painfully earnest ‘why is there so much sorrow in the world’ opener is over-heavy with the weight of the whirling planet, flavoured with melancholy violin. Yes, life can be a bummer. Next! – “Obediah” is all black Jacques Brel doomed gaiety, with diseased sexual jealousy set to the drunken sway of a Gallic squeeze-box, all fed through a vocal distortion. And the rest is sometimes too over-decorous with prissy strings. But persist, and there’s great stuff to come. Weaving ‘dreams in overdrive’, with smart lines in rhyme – try ‘love breaks hearts like a kid squashing flies’ (“3:30am”), or ‘you always did like a pretty face… to sit on’. These are low-life Boho tales of bars and debaucherous frolics with available girls, drizzle and regret, paracetamols, old manifestos, widows and whores, a bedroll full of books, and getting drunk on Rioja at Karl Marx’ tomb while wearing paisley shirts. The literate narrative “Smalltalk” runs on convincingly expletive-flecked playwright lived-in dialogue. While “It’s Raining On The Old Cat’s Grave” admits ‘you were drunk, asleep under heavy bedclothes / your cough’s getting worse, I took what you had in your purse’. Cult stuff. Well-wired into precedents where ‘old vinyl will never let you down’. Maybe. The idea of being a minority taste probably sounds good to Slumdog…, Sundog, no – Songdog. After all, cult is a comfortable place to be creative in.