The New Criticism

Some thoughts orated to me upon Mrs Chamberlain-King Snr’s first listen to Tragic Realism by LD & the New Criticism; that is the mother rather than the ladyfriend:

“I like this. But then I always like his stuff. He’s a wee dote.”

Mr Beghtol has never taken criticism well, if the work of his other band, Flare, is a reliable source. Within it, the narrators deal with rejection, disappointment and bad reviews with the ever constructive reactions of moping, crying and deep sighing. It is understandable that he would redress the balance with a new criticism of his own invention.

In this seadee, with this all-new band, Mr Beghtol acts as Mr Price in the film Theatre Of Blood – sick of being lied to, sick of being humoured, he assesses his detractors. The criticised becomes the critic. And instead of thumbs up or marks out of ten, he awards only death by suffocation and rail disaster.

“What a funny ending! I think that’s hilarious, but they probably didn’t mean it to be funny.”

Allow me to reference the times a moment by alluding to a documentary notorious at the moment of writing but most likely not at the moment of print – “we come out on stage with ukuleles and accordions and violins, like Sufjan Stevens, dressed to the nines in silk jammies and smoking smocks and strike up sentimental ditties about murder and suicide and bloody revenge – we call ourselves The Aristocrats.”

It is hard to tell from their countrypolitan hicks-ploitation soundtrackings whether they are yokels done swell (The Beverly Hill Billies) or sophisticates roughing it. They have reclaimed existential violence for a country audience – now Eminem need no longer dabble in hip-hop for an excuse to black up and engage in misogyny. They have given the term hoe-down the second meaning of a prostitute with a fatal gunshot wound.

“It sounds like gospel. Or an Amish community…”

That practices sodomy. With electric cattle prods.

If the time period we call The Great Depression was accompanied by The Carter Family, then the similarly named state of mind is counterpointed by The New Criticism. But their Danielson Famile rough-house schtick and James K. Polk parlour music documents the manic upswing that demands vengeance for wrongs done rather the binge-eating downward spiral. There have always been murder ballads, but seldom murder swamp-stomps, tangos and saloon-swingers. Nor has there been a more enthusiastic song called Apathy! since Apathy! by The Enthusiasts.

The Carter Family sang that there was no depression in Heaven; The New Criticism are willing to send you there to find out.

Stephen O’Hagan | Autumn 2005