CD Review
Gareth Liddiard
Strange Tourist
(Shock Music)

garehtliddiard I’ve been listening to this album for a couple of weeks but I don’t think I really appreciated it till I happened to be listening to it in the recovery room after a recent operation on my knee. The surgery itself was pretty minor — repairing some cartlidge right between the bones — though it did involve being given a general anaesthetic.

When I came to in the post-op room the pain was excruciating, but the docs quickly pumped me full of some blessed opiate — the sort we keep behind lock and key, the doctor told me later when I asked what it was — and I was wheeled into the recovery room about thirty minutes later, with the drug taking effect, though still with a throbbing pain — as if someone was digging their thumb into my knee — right underneath my kneecap. So I was somewhere between pleasure and pain as I plugged in my iPod earphones and found myself listening to this album.

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that this is not the sort of album that you enjoy. It’s all a bit too dark and grinding for that, but it nonetheless does deliver a sort of pleasure, a form of satisfaction that you might get, say, from reading a difficult book or recovering from successful surgery.

The music is simply Liddiard accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, singing long songs with clever lyrics documenting the political and the personal. Not that you can always understand the lyrics given the singer’s tendency to slur lines together, but somehow he imparts the general idea of what he is saying and net effect is that you feel like you are following what he is singing about. At the very least, that moany groany voice delivers a particular mood and there is no mistaking who you are listening to.

Bottom line is, the album is great. And I don’t think you are going to need knee surgery in order to appreciate it, which is probably good news from a marketing point of view. It’s the sort of music that some will dismiss as pretentious and laboured but to me such an assessment is merely a species of tall poppy syndrome. Liddiard, in other words, is taking a bit of risk here, trying to deliver an artistic vision and thus making himself a bit vulnerable to easy criticism.

But listen to, say, ‘Blondin Makes An Omlette’ or ‘Did She Scare All Your Friends Away’ and tell me they aren’t just really good songs delivered with skill and even passion. Liddiard’s voice is always going to be a challenge for some people, for me too on occasion, but it really is a fine instrument within the framework of what Liddiard himself (or the Drones) produce. He is certainly a talent worth supporting, so I’ve got no hesitation in recommending you take a listen.