Richard Jobson

The Ballad of Etiquette

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Working in a field so ripe for parody as spoken word efforts takes, then as now, not a little bit of guts to see it through. Richard Jobson was barely out of his teens when The Ballad of Etiquette started coming together, but as his first full-length effort outside of the Skids it's an often entrancing release, not least because of his excellent backing band. Virginia Astley's flute and piano parts and the multi-instrumental work of Josephine Wells, notably on clarinet, as well as the brilliant John McGeoch's acoustic guitar work, provided a lovely, reflective bed of music suggestive of 1920s-style elegance more than beatnik coffeehouse jams. In a way Jobson wasn't even taking center stage on his own album -- the first things you hear are piano and clarinet on "India Song" for about a minute and a half, and unlike so many would be Allen Ginsbergs (or, more aptly, Jim Morrisons) he works with rather than against the accompaniment. Perhaps the beautiful drama of "Anonymous" is the best example, with his wordless singing setting the initial tone rather than his poetry. That said Jobson's own delivery is often strikingly harsh -- not shouted or ranted, certainly, but roughly declamatory, a surely intentional contrast to the music. His poetic imagery is defiantly dreamlike, portraying sketches of romantic melodrama in strange settings or internal monologues. One of his most striking efforts is the stark, percussion-only "Night of Crystal," an imagined dialogue between Nazi leaders Albert Speer and Josef Goebbels, while selections by Debussy and Satie were reworked on the album -- not to mention a surprising take on the jazz standard "Stormy Weather." [LTM's 2006 reissue adds six tracks, including various pieces, live and studio, recorded before The Ballad of Etiquette and released on compilation albums, notably including "Armoury Show," which would eventually provide the name of Jobson's post-Skids band, and a fierce version of Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" (with some hilariously timely references to Ultravox's "Vienna" to boot).]

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