Cherry Red 2019
Five decades on since his debut, Beau’s tuneful epistles remain ever-relevant and increasingly acidic.
“It’s merely a drama by some other name”: this Shakespearean statement could summarize the album Trevor Midgley considers a personal milestone. Could – because, released exactly 50 years to date from the singer-songwriter’s eponymous debut, “Damascus Road” is somewhat mellower than his previous records such as "Rattle The Asylum Bars"; yet controversy hasn’t been removed from the veteran’s next set of song. Its original cover artwork was deemed too PC-sensitive by powers that be and was replaced at the eleventh hour, giving another of Beau’s lines – “We’re awfully polite” – a sinister gravity.
Still, sometimes-heavy subject matter, at times suggesting the futility of one’s efforts, doesn’t affect his fluttering fingers and voice which carry the hypocrites-baiting irony behind “Men Of The World” and “Disciples” with equal elegance, even though the former hits faux secret fraternities and the latter is public-facing, while the levels of social responsibility are actually reversed here. This may be the album’s main theme, the repercussions of an individual’s decisions that lead to ochlocracy – as explained in “Demagogue Rules” – or, to a lesser extent, to what would result in the #MeToo movement, as detailed in “Kitten Kaboodle” where the artist’s tones perfectly reflect the number’s racy nature.
Yet it’s “Lacey Fayre” that will link current affairs not only to the origins of feminism but also to the dangers of laissez-faire liberties. “What is an act if it’s not to pretend?” Trevor asks to admit, soon after: “It’s hard always acting and being bemused” – although “The Great Game” is the musings of a passerby, not an player, a rare case for Beau. Instead, there’s playful sympathy oozing out of “Let’s Get The Show On The Road” – so unlike the sarcasm of “The Party Must Go On” which, pretending to close the songs cycle in a celebratory manner by touching on the preceding pieces, must push the button of guilt in an attentive listener.
“You never need reason when fear will do!”: this is the kind of harsh truth which defines the “Mandalay Bay” massacre remembered in the record’s title track and dryly drawing on Kipling for one more literary layer. Should the listener wonder why Midgley omitted his usual staging of historical events here, the answer is on the warning of “Beware relying on your rear-view mirror” – whereas the lament of “Child Of Aberfan” can’t be ignored, neither on referential nor on emotional level. All of it must hurt… only pains often mean we’re fighting to survive, and Beau’s cuts are healing his followers.