Aqualung, by Jethro Tull
Suggested by Stuart Taylor
Jethro Tull are a punchline.
If you’ve ever tried writing anything funny, or even if you’ve ever tried crafting a joke, you’ll know that some things, in a category, are funnier than others. Sure, comedy is subjective, but in reality there is a hierarchy of objective comedy in all things. For example:
Cheese. “Wenslydale” is funnier than “Cheddar”.
Crisps. “Monster Munch” are funnier than “Kettle Chips”.
Cars. “Fiat Punto” is funnier than “Ford Fiesta”.
Beer. “Theakstons Old Peculiar” is funnier than “Budweiser”. Although technically, Budweiser is a soda, just like Subway bread is a cake.
Similarly, Jethro Tull is just funny. It’s used as a derogatory descriptor for any arty farty hippy dippy flute and lute farmcore bongo twatalong strumpy scrumpy faddle-dee-dee that you could care to mention.
Consequently, I’ve never given them much thought, other than a snorted laugh now and then, when they are used in a joke or a sitcom. They also sport a flautist, which is another thing that’s just objectively funny. The flute, played by scampering, capering fawn-legged claypoles, all curly-toed moccasins and felt hats with feathers. Never trust an instrument that’s played sideways.
Aqualung is my first entry into the Crazy World of Jethro Tull, and at first blush I’m a lot more impressed than I thought I’d be. I expected something misty, blissful, even dreamy, prog bloat with a floaty subliminal minimalism; something unclear, of an era, a psychedelic relic. Instead, my head was shocked at the rockiness, the deft and dainty guitar stumming, the stunning hot and smoky folky cute flutey beauty.
I didn’t expect the flute to be so engaging, if I’m, honest. I expected more fah-dee-dah and court jester. It’s an integral part of the Tull experience, but I do like it best when it’s used as an accent rather than the defining piece. As for songs, my standout is Locomotive Breath, the guitar-driven chugalong, but all the tracks have a lot to offer. Yes, even the flute-heavy ones.
It’s not all roses, mind. While I’m now far more respectful of their work, I still think Aqualung dives too frequently into the Instrumental well. It’s also a Concept Album, and rather po-faced at that. And the sound, while still vibrant, does come over as dated. But what can you expect? It’s almost fifty years old, just like me, and I sound pretty dated too.
In conclusion, with Jethro Tull I’m reminded of the great Bob Monkhouse’s best one liners: “When I told everyone I wanted to be a comedian, everyone laughed. Well, they’re not laughing now.” In Aqualung, Jethro Tull have convinced me that they too are no laughing matter. I give the album 7/10, with nary a hey-nonny-noo nor a fiddle-dee-dah in earshot.