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Skint & Demoralised – This Sporting Life (Review)

Skint & Demoralised, This Sporting Life

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

WAKEFIELD street poet Matt Abbott (aka Skint & Demoralised) releases his latest album in the form of the reactionary This Sporting Life, an LP that owes more to cinematic and literary sources than musical ones. Sadly, it still comes up short.

Like its name suggests, the lyrical themes stem from the British new wave of cinema in the early ‘60s… kitchen sink dramas that were based in typically grim Northern towns documenting the classic “angry young man” character and focusing on romance, social politics, coming-of-age and the general struggles of young working class people.

As such, it’s themes resonate today where the north, in particular, is feeling the brunt of the UK’s economic turmoil, where the young are quite often angry (witness last year’s riots) and romance continues to blossom in spite of it all.

But while there’s clearly a lot of thought put in, there’s also an overbearing sense of frustration and despair that makes for a pretty hard listen. While the musical style, which draws from The Pogues, The Smiths and the Manics as well as a little Bob Dylan and Billy Bragg, has a very Northern ring to it.

Of the other varied sources, tracks like former single All The Rest Is Propaganda draws from a famous quote from Alan Sillitoe’s novel Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, while Maria, Full of Grace springs from Abbott’s self-confessed obsession with Johnny Cash.

Admittedly, the album gets off to a deceptively feel-good start with the Pogues-ish Hogmanay Heroes, which revels in the kind of good time values that are missing elsewhere.

But the general tone is summed up over the opening of 43 Degrees, which finds Abbott singing line such as “I’m sick to death of England, rainy summer skies” and “all we want to do is get high” – while seeking an escape.

That same sense of anger is evident on album closer Lowlife, which brings things to a volatile, ugly close.

The album is on surer footing when delivering cheeky odes to love such as Maria, Full of Grace or keeping things upbeat, instrumentally, on Maybe You Are After All?.

But it’s resolutely English values and kitchen sink style lack the breeziness of Blur’s Park Life and have that ring of desperation about them, which make it more of a Northern working man favourite. It needed a little more diversity to offer broader appeal.

Download picks: Hogamanay Heroes, Maybe You Are After All?, Maria, Full of Grace

Track listing:

  1. Hogamanay Heroes
  2. 43 Degrees
  3. Maria, Full of Grace
  4. All The Rest is Propaganda
  5. The Lonely Hearts of England
  6. Voluntary Confinement
  7. Maybe You Are After All?
  8. Did It All Go To Plan?
  9. Fireworks
  10. Lowlife