Of Cerberus and Saint Mugging Squirrels
Fit The Third, in which foppish taskmaster Bid kidnaps a gaggle of North London singing schoolgirls, confiscates their mobile phones, and flings them into the Underworld. "Your Australian Querulous Intonation can't help you now!" he cackles after them, unhelpfully.
The result is Bid's latest tonic of a record, the third dainty letter from the fantastical village of Mousseron and its environs. It picks up seamlessly from the last one, updating us on new adventures within its colourful world, like a Christmas circular from a favourite eccentric relative. This time round, Scarlet's Well is a band with seven lead vocalists, backed by tuba, accordion, brushed drums, summer guitars, banjos, folkish fiddles, and a showman-engine steam organ called "Betsy." Cue tales of ghostly parrots, Stygian encounters with the dead, and no less than two songs with words by that Victorian rock star poet Ms Christina Rossetti, the tunes of which, by the way, wipe the floor with 'In The Bleak Midwinter'. There's also little musical nods to Kurt Weill ('Mr Mystery's Mother'), Astrud Gilberto ('Night Of The Macaw'), and swaggering blues ('Dream Love'). What other pop record can boast the sound of the three-headed dog Cerberus falling asleep, head by newly-snoring head? Or the sound of squirrels mugging a passing saint in the woods, then slurping on his mead? How could any fan of fop-rock survive the bleak midwinter of 2002 without these delicious new ballads, broadsides and shanties from Bid's ever-inventive pen? Bid wants to call the Scarlet's Well albums 'avant garde'. But there's too much melody, too much classy songwriting, too much wit and beauty for that. It's great pop music. And like all of Bid's records from He's Frank to this, it's also in love with the English language. What finer romance?
A hit, a palpable hit... Hurrah!
© Dickon Edwards 2002