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 by Charlie Brown