the boy least likely to - the law of the playground

This is an album to treasure. Listen to it once and you are bowled over by a sense of childish wonder and joy, underpinned by an ‘eccentric’ English whimsicality which thankfully never oversteps the line and drifts into mawkish sentimentality. Imagine Teenage Fanclub scoring the soundtrack to Chorlton and the Wheelies: The Movie (No, it doesn't exist so don't try and hunt down the DVD) and you are on the right tracks. They remind me of nothing so much as Derrero, which is brilliant because Derrero were one of the most underrated bands of the late '90s and, like the boy least likely to, produced gorgeous, perfect pop songs infused with vocal harmonies which caress your ears like Audrey Hepburn in velvet gloves. It defies classification, it is clearly 'folk' music but it has no qualms about meandering through any genre which takes its fancy.

The world of taste and acceptability is an odd thing. For some bizarre, unspoken, reason we tend to dismiss joy and wonder as being somehow unworthy of great art, acceptable as a one-off single perhaps but very suspect when pervading a whole album. The Cure, for example, could get away with Lovecats or Why can't I be you? only because they smothered them with a body of desolate, epic, serious work. So, is The Law of the Playground destined to be consigned to the island of novelty?

Thankfully not, because repeat listens, and let me tell you there have been plenty in the couple of days I've owned this album, offer up lyrical gems which, at times, peel back the fraying corners of the joyful sheen and offer up hints of ennui, desperation and loneliness. A balloon on a broken string is, prima facie a happy-go-lucky tale of a child's balloon set free into the sky but pay attention and you'll realise that this is a tale of someone set adrift from society, dealing with fears that their entire existence is pointless, devoid of any meaning or purpose. The boy least likely to is a machine, which incidentally sounds like the theme to Hamish McBeth played upside down by goblins, is apparently a tale of a homemade robot which has been created to make life more simple but ends up causing the inventor to question his very existence amongst the human race. This is pretty bleak stuff hidden amongst the jolly, idiosyncratic instrumentation and delivery and thank heavens for Whiskers the tale of a magical cat that can clap her paws and make it snow.

This album is quite literally wonderful in every sense of the word and it immediately takes its place in the pantheon of great albums in my collection. I can't remember being so excited or touched by an album for years. I cannot praise this album enough and it will undoubtedly be the soundtrack to my summer. I am quite certain that if we all took the woozy madness of The Law of the Playground to our hearts then the world would be a much saner and happier place.



out of 10

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