This photo lies. Andy Bull, he’s not happy. Or at least he wasn’t when he recorded this song. The man with the golden voice, who floored me last year with his debut record and a support slot with Duffy (which actually ended up being far more interesting main event) is back, and it appears things have changed. Change, I would like to point out, is not always a bad thing. But watching Andy in his element during an intimate cabaret theatre gig in the back-end of our city last week, it became clear that it’s not so much the mood of the artist that determines their success, but rather what they do with it.
‘Dog’ is a song about a canine of the black variety, which has many connotations for those who have studied either British history or psychology. It seems Andy, the person who I have pretty much never seen angry, has trouble getting rid of the bastard. In a lovely, Ben Folds-esque whimsy, he rhapsodises as to the different ways he’s going to destroy that bad feeling lingering around every corner. There’s a lot of really resonant lyrics in this short piece of music, including ‘And the worst part/Is knowing my part in it all’ and the chorus refrain ‘I can’t explain the tear that sits in my eye.’ I’m not going to do a psychoanalysis on one of my favourite musicians (God knows, like journalists, most of them need it), but if I’m partially good at decoding serious messages, then this song is quite an important one. It’s also a 3/4 waltz. Which is just awesome, you guys. Your grandparents could dance to this.
Talking about being unhappy, or depressed, is not an easy thing to do. And while writing songs on the subject is easy if you’re a) couching it in reference to a lost love, b) in a band called Linkin Park or c) Elliot Smith, being more upfront about it takes guts. And though Bull smiled as he performed this song, which has the added bonus of the world-conquering, ever-so-lovely Lisa Mitchell as his harmonic foil on wax, if you were in the audience, you could hear that he was hurting. And it hurt me to watch that, which means that this song is most definitely, 100%, doing its job. And if Andy hadn’t lost his fucking phone same night, I’d be on the phone telling him she’s not worth it, it’s OK, these things pass, let’s go get coffee. Stephen Fry, who our Dad is pretty much enamoured with, recently started a huge online campaign to de-stigmatise this sort of problem in the UK. I feel like this should be the theme song, should we ever attempt something similar in this country.
Most importantly, after what seems like a prolonged absence, it’s just nice to hear Bull’s voice again. Even if this was just a passing idea he picked up from a magazine one day, the way he carries it off makes me believe the conviction behind the notes. Real singing, real piano, real heart. And even though he’s recently chopped off his locks, Andy’s still the best lostboy troubadour I know. Lisa Mitchell should be honoured.
Andy Bull – ‘Dog’ (featuring Lisa Mitchell)
Cut all that Bull .