THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH – Welcome to the Beautiful South (1989)

Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov
Album assigned by: Charly Saenz

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is one gloriously deceptive album, which after the first three listens I didn’t know how to approach – it sounded nice and cool-sounding but didn’t quite click with me… until on my fourth listen I finally paid closer attention to the lyrics. HOLY. FUCKING. SHIT. The lyrical dissonance here might be even more shocking than on Steely Dan’s records. This stuff is so gleefully dark, sarcastic and bitter – it features songs about murder, rape, backstabbing, hate, broken hearts and other beautiful things set to wonderfully poppy melodies and lush arrangements. Even quoting arguably the happiest Beatles’ song ‘She Loves You’ near the end of the epic ‘Love Is…’ comes off as a piece of deadpan humor rather than an actual positive emotion (especially when it turns into “I love me – yeah yeah yeah”). I won’t spoil you the rest of this wonderfully insidious album – let me only say that it features such lines as “That’s sweet – that conversation we had last week, when you gagged and bound me up to my seat” or “But he only knew his problem when he knocked her over, and when the rotting flesh began to stink”, set to catchy pop melodies! When vocalist Paul Heaton doesn’t sing disturbing songs about blood and women in walls (in a voice that sounds like a somewhat less depressed and more self-aware Morrissey), he engages himself in some social-political satire (‘Have You Ever Been Away’, ‘Oh Blackpool’), or creates some anti-love statements that are biting (‘Girlfriend’, ‘Love Is…’) or just incredibly sad (‘I’ll Sail This Ship Alone’). A very punky attitude, Paul – this is pop, but EDGY pop!

The music works just as well, of course – it could be described as catchy 80s jangle pop with a tinge of melancholy – Paul’s previous band, The Housemartins, immediately come to mind, as do The Smiths. This is enjoyable by all means.

So in the end it’s one of those cases when an album works in two ways: it can be enjoyed as a nice-sounding pop album with interesting melodies, great arrangements and production, as well as good playing and singing, or it can be seen as a collection of scathing, biting and malicious songs with quite a bit of dark and sarcastic humor. In any case – good stuff, fine album.