Random Access Memories
Well, this is a long way from Happy Hour or Caravan of Love.
Much in the manner of Damon Albarn, former Housemartins and Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton has abandoned the sophisticated pop that made his name to pen this ambitious "soul opera" based on the seven deadly sins – and a mysterious new eighth one.
The 8th was first performed – alongside Albarn's De Dee – at this summer's Manchester International Festival, and features guest vocals from King Creosote, Cherry Ghost singer Simon Aldred and ex-Beautiful South vocalist Jacqui Abbott, glued together by a doom-voiced narrative by The Wire actor Reg E Cathey.
Heaton describes the production as a song in eight chapters and its preposterous story, featuring unlikely characters such as Fat Alice, Angry Dwayne and Officer Pork-Pork, suggests musical touchstones as varied as Meat Loaf, Spinal Tap and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, before Heaton identifies the eighth, highly topical deadly sin – gossip.
For all of its conceptual layers, though, The 8th's high point is Abbott trilling the most Beautiful South-like number, Envy. It is hard not to applaud Heaton for such an audacious project. If you will ever play it again is a different question entirely.