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Album Review

Their 1989 debut was hailed for reinserting cynicism, doubt, and biting sarcasm into pop music. But when Choke arrived a year later, Paul Heaton and the Beautiful South encountered a good amount of critical blowback. "Too clever!" they cried. "Too cynical!" It was true — kind of. As before, tales of codependence and things seen that should never have been unfolded over the course of irresistible little pop songs. But "I Hate You (But You're Interesting)" twisted the knife even deeper. While the main thrust of the song suggested sitting on a beach lost in painful memory, sprightly piano kept drowning out the seagulls like a memory too strong to shake. Maybe this sort of thing hit too close to home for some; for others, it was just an extension of the Smiths' self-love/hate. So even if Choke wasn't as successful as its predecessor, that it would give people fits at all probably pleased Heaton to no end. A lounge-y cover of "What You See Is What You Get" smirked with its own effeteness, "Tonight I Fancy Myself" gave the band's three vocalists a peppy arrangement over which to harmonize and numerous songs showcased the bracing vocals of Briana Corrigan playing off of Heaton's ironic croon. All of Choke's light, jazz-tinged arrangements had a great time concealing the Beautiful South's ghastly tales in their own way. Perhaps the only reason they were accused of being too clever was because their skewering of society was too accurate.

Biography

Formed: 1989 in Hull, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Following the disbandment of the British indie pop group the Housemartins in 1989, vocalist Paul Heaton and drummer David Hemmingway formed the Beautiful South. Where their previous group relied on jazzy guitars and witty, wry lyrics, the Beautiful South boasted a more sophisticated, jazzy pop sound, layered with keyboards, R&B-inflected female backing vocals and, occasionally, light orchestrations. Often, the group's relaxed, catchy songs contradicted the sarcastic, cynical thrust of the lyrics....
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Choke, The Beautiful South
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