The Yamaha Years, by John Shuttleworth
Reviewed by Saira Gorringe
Much like the album, this review is going to start with an apology.
Sorry Craig. You seem like a nice bloke, Stuart speaks very highly of you. So, um, yeah, sorry.
I watched the randomiser video and read down the list of artists on off; like them, know them, love them, not thought about them in 20 years, they’re okay – I get to my assigned listen and… Who?
Off to wiki I go.
“John Shuttleworth is a fictional singer-songwriter and radio presenter, created in 1986 and performed by English comedy actor and musician Graham Fellows.”
Graham Fellows is the guy behind Jilted John, anthem of the proto ‘nice guy’ who call their ex a slag the moment they get dumped. A useful song when your best friend splits up with a guy called Gordon (ask me how I know!)
I am not a fan of comedy music – at various points Stuart has tried inflicted The Mighty Boosh, Flight of the Conchords, Axis of Awesome etc on me, and I hate them all. Oh, and I can’t stand the kind of cringe comedy that is based around laughing at a pathetic man’s lack of self-awareness; think Alan Partridge or The Office – I can’t watch because I find it deeply physically uncomfortable. Soooooo – this album is going to have to do some work to win me round.
But maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised by the music?
The music is as you might expect from an album called The Yamaha Years. Remember when you got a keyboard as a kid for Christmas? and then went through all the music samples, hitting Bossa Nova over and over? Imagine that with doggerel lyrics delivered in an exaggerated Yorkshire tone over the top, with occasional asides to other characters such as “Ken”. I feel like I’ve been trapped in a lift from a 70s sitcom. That feeling isn’t helped by reading through the song titles – “My wife died in 1970”, “Gammon and Eggs”, “500 bus stops” “up and down like a bride’s nighty” and Pigeons in flight” – oh god, there’s 20 of them.
The banality of life can be a beautiful thing to make music about (see Half Man Half Biscuit) but here everything is deliberately undermined and played for cheap laughs; maybe I shouldn’t complain about this in a comedy act, but it lacks the delightful whimsey of a HMHB song, and instead just feels lazy. For example, “Hey have you seen my wife”, an upbeat song about his wife leaving him after a row about a vacuum cleaner – and we might as well be listening to a “Take my wife, please” routine. There are occasional lines that are quite amusing, “you’re like Manchester, you’ve got strange ways”, but not enough for me.
If I liked the music better then the earnestness of “Up and Down like a Bride’s Nightie” might hit home. I didn’t expect an exploration of mood swings and depression and it’s still a rarity to have an ordinary bloke talk about their mental health; so to hear on an album that’s 20 years old is fab. I do love the image of the flying Canada geese giving Vs to the world. As a mental health message it’s a better call out than “How to be happy in a sad sad world” where the list of activities could be the inspiration for a 1000 wellbeing posts on Facebook. Speaking of earnest, “Save the Whales” offers a heartfelt plea for ocean creatures, but somehow misses the octopus?!
Stand out track – assuming I can’t just choose the apology then I’ll go with “Y Reg” – a cheerful ode to his Austin Ambassador Y Reg (Why Reg?) as it is probably the least offensive on here.
Overall, I’m going to give this a highly unfair 2/10 – there’s definitely an audience for this, but it definitely isn’t me.
Now, how do I remove all traces of this from my Spotify?