[CD Review] Lord Cut-Glass (Chemikal Underground)

With all due respect to God Help the Girl, Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch isn’t the only leader of a well-loved Scottish band to debut a theatrical solo project this summer. Inspired by a character from the Dylan Thomas play Under Milk Wood, which he read while stuck in bed with scarlet fever, former Delgados singer/guitarist Alun Woodward checks in with a self-titled outing as Lord Cut-Glass. Fans of the Delgados’ windswept albums will be glad to revisit Woodward’s crisp singing and buoyant orchestral touches, but this persona finds the man who once sang “Hate is all you need” more arch than ever.

All outlandish similes and deadpan wordplay, the songs are defined by Woodward’s rascally wit. On the opening “Even Jesus Couldn’t Love You,” he mocks, “Where did it go wrong? What happened here? Did your pony not wuv you/Reject you and buck you?” He decides, “There’s absolutely nothing to you” and repeats the song’s title like a schoolyard taunt. The humor is so pervasive that pirates and ninjas creep into the teary, delicate ballad “A Pulse,” and Woodward often ramps up his Scottish brogue to do the pomp and circumstance of the album’s old-world fixations justice.

As winning as much of the album is, Woodward is hemmed in by the strings and horns of “Monster Face” and “You Know,” as so many sarcastic lyrics can inspire eye-rolling. Still, guided by his sharp arrangements—played by Glaswegian classical musicians—and bolstered by the drumming and production of the Delgados’ Paul Savage, Woodward positions Lord Cut-Glass as a whimsical labor of love, something he has been working on more since the Delgados disbanded four years ago. It doesn’t match his former band’s fullness or majesty, but it’s an enjoyable chapter in Woodward’s continuing career.

 
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