The odds are clearly stacked against this album. First of all, its mere appearance is rendered an anticlimax by the notorious delays that occur when albums from the United Kingdom are licensed to American labels. This album's already a year and a half old in the Dudley Corporation's native Ireland, so even if the band were to travel to America to promote it, they've probably already gotten tired of performing these songs live. Hell, by the time I found out about Ballboy's promising debut Club Anthems, the group already had another album in the can. Second of all, this album comes along at a time when, at least in this country, taking cues from stalwart American indie-rock bands of the mid-nineties is beyond passe. Because of such, UK bands like Spraydog, Urusei Yatsura, and Seafood, all of whom take our old tricks and do them in a more tuneful, more earnest, and arguably better manner, see their records sink like deadweights the minute they're thrown into the American market. Therefore, there's not much hope to be had for an album that sounds like Lou Barlow writing lyrics on top of Heavy Vegetable songs. The same thing that I said about Christiana's Fatigue Kills applies here: yes, it's all been done before, but rarely quite this well. Plus, this album's even BETTER than Christiana's, so you REALLY need to heed my advice this time!
Every song on this album concerns itself with either a relationship being broken or a relationship being put back together. Fortunately, Dudley (the singer, songwriter, and guitarist whom this band is named after) finds a sensible middle ground between Lou Barlow's suffocating self-pity and David Gedge's uncomfortable erotic detail. The album benefits from masterful sequencing: just when the album's lovelorn shtick makes you want to stuff your head inside an oven, a trio of optimistic, lovey-dovey songs provides welcome relief during the album's second half. Of course, this being The Lonely World of the Dudley Corporation, our protagonist ends up getting his "heart ripped out again," to quote the closing mantra of penultimate track "HED," by record's end. There are very few gaps of silence between these short songs, and many of them are grouped together according to key. This produces an effect in which, if you're not paying attention to the CD player, songs begin to blend into each other. "A Song Against the City" sounds like a speedier climax to the previous ballad "She Falls," and the sweet ballad "R.K.P." sounds like a comedown from the previous thrasher "Slowed in Motion." The sequencing gives this album a strong thematic consistency, while keeping the songs from sounding samey or indistinct.
In album opener Score, Dudley compares his attitude toward a vaguely defined antagonist to that of a bored, unrehearsed musician: its greeting "Do-re-mi, assholes" is nothing short of classic. The vocals switch from listless mumbles to falsetto sighs, but the jittery music refuses to mirror the lyrics' apathy. Beats are shaved off the meter seemingly at random, and verse/chorus/verse is abandoned for a musical tangent that crams three distinct and memorable guitar riffs into forty seconds. The Heavy Vegetable influence becomes most apparent in moments like this, when musical ideas are announced and then discarded with such reckless abandon. "One in a Squillion" finds Dudley reminiscing, unable to accept the fact that his woman left him. His off-key warbling shifts into a strangled, powerful yelp at precisely the right moment, and he inserts a surprisingly dexterous
guitar solo in the middle of the song. Dudley's subsequent plea for reconciliation in "Divil the Bit" becomes extremely urgent during the song's chorus, when he struggles to catapult his voice above Joss' machine-gun drum rolls. "Stutter" is a reinforcement of the lyrical ideas of "One in a Squillion," but this time delivered in the second-person, and adorned with some delicious slide guitar playing. On "Stupid," Dudley admonishes himself to wear his heart on his sleeve, regardless of who it alienates, during a climax of grinding guitars and double-kick drums that sounds like Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch singing atop Metallica's "One."
"The Small Hours" is the album's bleakest song; in it, Dudley begins the night getting drunk in order to work up the nerve to call his ex. He fails, of course, and spends the rest of the night masturbating and puking. The song's so pretty and bouncy, though, that you won't notice how depressing the subject matter is unless you read the lyric sheet. On "Quick," Dudley is joyful at the prospect of falling asleep with his woman, his voice almost drowning in a sea of strings, bells, and accordion. "God Only Knows" is another Wedding Present-style strummer, whose lyrics describe a couple slowly growing disillusioned with its surroundings. By the next song, "HED," the couple turns its disillusionment towards each other, bringing the album full circle thematically. The appropriately named "Out Song" ends the album on a disarmingly sweet note, with Dudley vowing to protect and intercede on the behalf of a troubled girl. It peaks with a noisy, shambolic guitar solo that would make Pavement's Scott Kannberg proud were he ever to hear it.
If you're feeling down in the dumps this holiday season, The Lonely World of the Dudley Corporation will serve as the perfect tonic. If you program the CD to play only its fast songs, you'll have the perfect soundtrack to slam-dancing your broken heart away. If you program the CD to play only its slow songs, you'll have the perfect soundtrack to moping about and dwelling in your heartbreak. I guarantee you, though, that if you choose either option, you'll eventually want to hear the other songs because they're all wonderful. Listening to this album in its entirety is really the only way that one can appreciate the nuances of Dudley's songwriting; for a guy with such a one-track mind, he's awfully capable of keeping my interest. It also helps that his rhythm section rocks harder than both Sebadoh's and the Wedding Present's ever did. In short, buy this record now and thank me later.