Singing While Dead (ep)
The Scottish poet, humourist and eccentric-af creative Ivor Cutler had a music career too. He turned up on Rock Bottom which is no mean feat – and Robert Wyatt signed him up. Cutler would accompany himself reading stories and poems and then move into a haunting version of traditional balladry. As with all things Cutler did he was seemingly a parodist and heart-on-sleeve eccentric all at once, simultaneously taking the piss and paying tribute.
Here on brand new (previously unreleased) recordings – just four short songs, it’s an 8-minute long EP – you’ll get a sense of his sonorous delivery and weird wordplay. The worlds of John Lennon, Alf Garnett, Spike Milligan and Shel Silverstein colliding here.
The song titles alone – The Man With The Trembly Nose, There’s A Hole In My Head, Rolling Pins And Rolling Pins and Wooden Stew – give some glimpse into the surreal mind driving this near-madness.
The harmonium lightly dances behind a voice that takes you, instantly, to another world.
“Slow, should of course be slowly, but I had to make the thing rhyme” he deadpans at the end of Hole In My Head. Just as you chuckle at the absurdity and deft timing of it we’re caught up in the way he sings over and over, “Rolling pins and rolling pins and cutlery and china” as a recurring nursery rhyme-esque motif for what becomes a macabre murder ballad.
This is the thing with Cutler’s poetry, prose and music – the little surprises that come from nowhere. They’re there, hiding in plain sight, in and around the lines. Simple language, near-maddening repetition. And then wham! Something dark and brilliant.
His was a weird and brilliant mind. And now, for the first time in years, you can have a wee slice from it.