When Yorkshire performance poet Skint & Demoralised (Matt Abbott) signed with Mercury in 2008 the debut album, ‘Love & Other Catastrophes’, drew incredible support from press and radio alike. Featured as Q’s Next Big Thing, the accolades flooded in from Clash, The Independent, Sunday Times Culture and The Guardian, while radio support for the single Red Lipstick followed from Sara Cox, Zane Lowe, Colin Murray, Huw Stephens, Steve Lamacq, Nick Grimshaw, Annie Mac, Dermot O’Leary, Janice Long, and Chris Moyles.
As a poet first and foremost, lyricist second, and front-man third, it’s logical that TSL would absorb some of John Cooper Clarke’s charismatically uncouth, humorous and honest musings on life and British culture. When Abbott initially made the transition to performance poet, it presented a multitude of opportunities to be counted as a musical act, and so lyricists like Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Shane MacGowan, Morrissey, Billy Bragg, Guy Garvey, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, all helped to shape the Skint & Demoralised sound.
This Sporting Life is a record owing more to cinematic and literary sources than musical ones. However, the band’s mutual love for The Pogues was behind ‘The Lonely Hearts of England’ and Abbott’s obsession with Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan inspired ‘Maria, Full of Grace’.
Lead single ‘All The Rest Is Propaganda’ is a famous quote from Alan Sillitoe’s novel ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’. Lyrically it aims to capture first of all the uncertainty and insecurity, and then second of all the untouchable joy, of a new relationship.
Just like the album title suggests, inspiration for This Sporting Life’s lyrical themes stem from the British new wave of cinema in the early ‘60s; ‘Kitchen-sink’ dramas that were based in typically grim Northern towns, documenting the classic “angry young man” character and focusing on romance, social politics, coming-of-age and the general struggles of young working class people. Films such as ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, ‘A Taste of Honey’, ‘Room at the Top’, ‘A Kind of Loving’ and of course ‘This Sporting Life’ captivated Abbott as he rebuilt the Skint & Demoralised band set-up. Just as these features captured the universal simplicity of British working class life, and the poignancy of the relationships between the characters, Abbott’s own story-telling styles re-imagine this important legacy, making This Sporting Life feel like a tapestry depiction of the British every-man’s collective mentality.
"The themes touched upon in the likes of ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ and ‘A Taste of Honey’ are as relevant now as they were when they were written in the late 1950s, and it’s these themes that I love to try and replicate. No matter how politics and technology changes, these are the issues that will continue to dominate our lives for another 50 years to come”.
With Abbott taking this approach, TSL has every chance of standing the test of time as well.
**Skint & Demoralised will support Howard Marks on 8th Feb 2012 at The Hop, Wakefield**
Wakefield’s most articulate street poet finds the romance beneath the realism – NME
Joyously unapologetic Northern romp – Steve Lamacq, BBC 6 Music
Uncannily memorable, chirpy, cheeky, loveable sensitive-geezer soul-rap ditties – Guardian
Reminiscent of early the Streets, with nods to Squeeze, The Jam and Northern Soul – The Times