So where to start? I think it might be best to commence by talking about The Crutwells, two singer-songwriters, one Andi, who wields the guitar, and the other Nico, who plays a fast violin and had done the same with Liverpool band Pele in the early-mid nineties. Their experience does expand further and, as music professionals, they had both procured recording & publishing deals penning top UK chart hits for the BBC, as well as writing & producing in the USA for such companies as Decca, Polydor, Universal and Fox USA. They also toured with artists including The Pogues and The Stranglers, as well as in Nico’s case performing the legendary grounds that played host to the Reading festival, and this in 1992 when, as the more astute readers will recall, saw Nirvana headline. A real “I was there moment” without a doubt!
So why are we talking about The Crutwells, when we should be exploring this debut from The Supreme Art of Nothing? I’ll tell you why and this connection is less tenuous than it might at first appear: basically The Crutwells are Andi and Nico Crutwell-Jones, who under another guise may be found performing as The Supreme Art Of Nothing, but let’s pause here for a while and take in their name to start this story, what a cracking moniker, suggesting what? Indifference? Quiet arrogance? Or just something that came out of an all-night drinking session? Well, I can’t say, nor would I like to put words into the mouths of this band, let’s just ask that we let the music do the talking.
Whereas The Crutwells were performing songs that are as they refer to them “remodelled“, The Supreme Art… are stretching their creative muscle, and trust me there’s plenty of that. Starting with ‘So This Is How It Goes‘, a song that possesses a Celtic urgency, with Nico’s string technique at its core. ‘March Of The Living‘ follows and this is a more gentle number, which is a message of romance, or perhaps it’s something more sinister? Like a pendant it seems to switch from one sense to the other and with Nico’s simply sublime efforts sliding down the chords, again this is another number that is worth giving time to. ‘Backpack‘ seems to document a journey through life and of course experiencing the highs and lows that we all encounter. Next up is ‘Hey Lover‘, one of those conventional pop-songs the Crutwell-Joneses are renowned for and in this sub-4-minute journey that sees the subjects of the song riding “Bonnie and Clyde” through life.
It’s easy to see how these artists have made their way down this road called ‘life’ and as the number ‘God‘ comes into view – probably the high point on this particular journey, because of the way Nico and Andi play vocals off against one another;
“God’s crying again (Andi) – About the love (Nico) – That he’s never had (Andi) – About the faith (Nico) – That he doesn’t feel (Andi) – And all his posery promises (Nico) – God’s thinking aloud (Andi) – About the time (Nico) – When we knew his name (Andi) – About the hope (Nico) – That he couldn’t give (Andi) – In all his glory and sacrifice (Nico)…When will you realise, that you never made the grade? When will you realise, that the house you built is paper made? Oh Lord, I’ve fallen down and I’m searching for your Grace. Oh Lord, I’ve fallen down, but you never show your face (both)…”
This ingenious way of producing a song, exploring what seems to be Catholic guilt, is very well done and the layer like production becomes extremely moreish, so much so that I think they had me at “…About the love…”! The pair’s experience is laid bare here; writing and performing is obviously in their bones, that this album is an example of just what they can produce and this song is my particular favourite of the 12 available here. Interestingly we follow in yet more examples of belief as, on ‘How Dark Is Your Night‘, Andi sings “Unshackle me from the man and I will fly, lost direction of my unforgiving life…” and in ‘Monster‘ where, in an upbeat number, this journey of faith continues “…In fear of the dream, that’s why I’m waking you as fast as I can … and if the monsters try to hurt you, I’ll be there to take on the fight, ‘cos something just ain’t right and from a great height, I’ll save you….” During this number Nico’s violin becomes less obvious, as we find ourselves immersed in this whole story and realise that has happened before as the numbers progress.
I would have no hesitation in describing this album as a weighty tome, where these two singer/songwriters have brought their experience to the party, as you find yourself picking up lyric lines that bring a smile of recognition to the mind. Lines like “…learnt nothing at school, just listened to the bell…” from ‘Nothing New‘ and “…I’ve been picking up stones, so I can break your window … trying on clothes, I know ain’t going to fit me, lord knows Jesus loves a trier…”, to ‘My Life Crisis‘, complete with a vocal phrase lifted straight from The Buggles ‘Age Of Plastic‘. These are songs that seem full of that arrogance I described earlier, but one thing I would have to disagree with is the press that accompanied its release, describing them as “…like melding two very different musical backgrounds, like chocolate chip ice cream melting onto a plate of salt and vinegar crisps.” Now that’s just nasty! And really The Supreme Art of Nothing can in no way be likened to anything quite as distasteful! Folk-punk maybe, but nothing with an unpleasant aftertaste.
So This Is How It Goes is out now on Whackshark.