The Beautiful South
Carry On Up The Charts



August 20th, 2005 | 9 replies

Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Released 1994.
Go! Discs Records.

Paul Heaton - Vocals
David Hemmingway - Vocals, Drums
David Rotheray - Guitars
Sean Welch - Bass
David Stead - Drums
Jacqueline Abbott - Vocals
Briana Corrigan - Vocals
Damon Butcher - Keys
If you live in the US, you will likely have no idea who The Beautiful South are. If you live in the UK, there is a 1 in 4 chance that this album is in your house somewhere. Such is life.

The Beautiful South were formed from the ashes of The Housemartins in 1989. Paul Heaton and David Hemmingway decided, in the wake of the break-up of their previous group, to form a new group almost immediately, choosing their new name as a sarcastic riposte to the reputation of the housemartins as boring, downbeat Northerners (the same reputation that had blighted their most clear influence, The Smiths). The assembled a line-up and released their first single within a year.

This compilation was released in 1994, following four full-lengths. Although they'd always been a successful group (A Little Time was a #1 single), the success of this album was a total shock. It became the 3rd fastest selling album ever in this country, and stayed at #1 in the charts for months, eventually going 7 times platinum. Approximate estimates place it as the 50th biggest selling album ever in the UK.

Song For Whoever
Originally on Welcome To The Beautiful South. 5/5
Their first ever hit, and easily one of their best songs. You know how every other rock star has written a song about being a rock star" Well, this is the best song ever written about being a rock star, ever. It's essentially a power ballad, but it perverts the form and exposes its cynical, hollow underbelly. 'Oh Shirley, oh Deborah, oh Julie, oh Jane....I wrote so many songs about you, I forgot your name.' And the wake of that lyric, every cynical attempt to dedicate a song to a vague 'lost love' falls flat. Heaton then goes one step further, painting himself as an abusive womanizer always in search of the subject for his next hit. 'Deep, so deep, the number 1 I hope to reap, depends on the tears you weep, so cry, lover cry.....'

You Keep It All In
Originally on Welcome To The Beautiful South. 5/5
This time, a duet between Heaton and Corrigan, with a few vocals from Hemmingway, too. This is the first clear showcase of Heaton's not-so-secret weapon - welding dark, cynical lyrics to upbeat, melodic, easygoing pop (here, replete with fingersnaps). After Corrigan accuses Heaton of keeping it all in, he responds 'That's right. The conversation we had last night" All I wanted was to knife you in the heart....' The lyrics later hint at a teenage girl forced to keep quiet as her father abuses her mother - revealing the song as treatize on the British stiff upper lip. Which, of course, amkes the irony of the upbeat melody cut even deeper. Americans may not understand the power of this song. I think it's a fucking masterpiece.

I'll Sail This Ship Alone
Originally on Welcome To The Beautiful South. 4.5/5
A beautiful piano intro leads into another finger-snapping rhythm with a stunning melody. Tenacious D fans may recognize the story here - 'Well they said if I wrote the perfect love song, you would take me back. Well I wrote it, but I lost it....' Later in the song, Heaton soars into an unabashed falsetoo over pizicatto strings, and the ghost of Morrissey bleeds through the track. Brilliant stuff.

A Little Time
Originally on Choke. 5/5
Man, this was MASSIVE when I was just getting into music. It's one of my earliest - and fondest - musical memories. Generally piano-led, but with a full brass section and pan pipes too (!!), it features one of the many Beautiful South bitter duets. Here, Heaton asks for a little time, space, and freedom, only to be shot down by Corrigan. 'The freedom that you wanted back" it's yours for good....I hope your glad.' Her sections use the anti-chorus technique, famously used by Radiohead on Fake Plastic Trees - instead of everything building up, it all backs off leaving the vocal to dominate the listener's attention completely. To close the song, she reprises Heaton. 'I've had a little time to think it over....I found a little courage, to call it off.' It's her best vocal performance, and it's heartbreaking.

My Book
Originally on Choke. 5/5
The most upbeat song yet. I've seen this song thrown down at weddings, and amazingly, it got EVERYONE up. Another measure of just how ingrained into the British consciousness this album is. The lyrics switch from diary entries in the verses (these lyrics are the most Morrissey-esque on the whole album, and accordingly, the funniest) to male-female vocal trade-offs in the chorus, before referencing Soul II Soul by closing with a chant of 'Back to bed, back to reality'.

Let Love Speak Up Itself
Originally on Choke. 5/5
A total change of tact from My Book, this is a slow ballad featuring only piano for the most part (a rarity for these guys). While there is the trademark cynicism here (references to funerals, meat cleavers, and 'pathetic little vodkas' are included), it's pushed onto a far grander scale here - the AMG track review quite rightly describes this as 'cinematic'. The pay-off line - 'To the world's greatest mum, from the oldest swinger in town' - is absolutely sublime, and is delivered perfectly by Heaton.

Old Red Eyes Is Back
Originally on 0898. 5/5
Their best song ever, and Heaton's best lyric. A tale of a old drunken waster looking back on his life, battling to overcome his alcohol dependancy. Every time he falls off the wagon and succumbs to drink again....well, old red eyes is back. Our protagonist palms people off weakly - 'When you look into these eyes, I hope you realize, they could never be blue.' The song builds and builds, before crashing again, and picking up for one final chorus. 'Old Red he died, and every single landlord in the district cried/An empty bottle of whiskey lying by his side...'

We Are Each Other
Originally on 0898. 4/5
More guitar-led than most of their output, this deals with a couple so close that their relationship can no longer function properly. The structure of the song is brilliant (this sort of attention to detail is just one of the many things that elevate The Beautiful South far beyond the vast majority of pop bands) - observe how the chorus is split into 2 halves, effectively making 2 brilliant hooks for the price of one.

Bell Bottomed Tear
Originally on 0898. 4.5/5
Vocal duties here are handled mainly by Briana Corrigan, though Heaton does appear at points. The strengths of her voice is exploited very well here - sugary, with a slight hiccup, but always fragile and vaguely damaged. Her character here is never made explicitly clear - she's adressing a man who has got her pregnant, though whether she and the man are still together isn't made clear. Either way, he's ruined her life. Quietly devastating.

Originally on 0898. 4.5/5
A distant relative of Little Baby Nothing by the Manic Street Preachers, though far more upbeat than that song. This features Heaton addressing a woman who's got by on looks and sex alone, telling her to 'Close your legs, open your mind' (and that's just the opening line!). The chorus packs a sonic punch you wouldn't expect from the band, as Heaton and Hemmingway ask '36D, so what" Is that all that you got"'

Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud)
Originally on Miaow. 4.5/5
Also known as 'Carry On Regardless', this is the track that gave its name to the album (it's also, in both instances, a reference to the Carry On movies). It also contains the lyric 'Bronze is for the sick and old' - another ironic, witty twist from Heaton when you consider that their later cash-in compilation was called Solid Bronze. Practically a showtune musically, it could quite easily have shown up in a musical. It's also possibly their most relentlessly catchy moment.

Everybody's Talkin'
Originally on Miaow. 4.5/5
Cover version time! To be totally honest, this is a pretty average version of this song. The band play it straight, although there's some strange slap bass in the second verse. But you know what" I've never heard a bad version of this tune. It's just a plain great song all the same.

Prettiest Eyes
Previously unreleased. 4.5/5
Opens with a fingerpicked acoustic guitar passage that almost threatens to take attention away from the vocal. The fact that this is a fairly simple love song is almost a disappointment after what precedes it, but it's saved by Heaton's lovely observation of love surviving throughout old age. 'Take a look at those crow's feet, sitting on the prettiest eyes.' The couple even offer up some advice to the younger generation - 'You can't have too many good times, children'.

One Last Love Song
Stand-alone single. 4/5
A continuation of Song For Whoever. This is more subtle in its cynicism towards popular music, but it shows in the second verse. 'Those bloody great ballads we hated at first" Well I bought them all, now I'm writing worse.' But this is different, because it is - hark! - a fairly straight love song. Which makes you wonder whether the quoted lyric is self-hatred, or just a backhander aimed at either his reputation or the rest of the charts. In any case, there's subversion of the pop song structure here, just as there is in Song For Whoever, even if it's not quite as effective.

Dream A Little Dream
Originally on French Kiss OST. 4/5
Only included on some reissues. Another cover, again of a simple, great pop song that surely everybody in the Western world is familiar with. Again, the band play it straight. A good song, but nobody will call this out as a highlight.

I'll be honest here - my original intention was to review the later Beautiful South hits collection, Solid Bronze. However, halfway through the track-by-track, I realised the only reason I was even listening to it was for the songs that featured on here. Thing is, when these guys are off form, they're boring and too intelligent for their own good, which comes through all too clear in the second half of Solid Bronze. Here, though, EVERY track is brilliant. I was wary of giving another compilation such a high rating so soon after reviewing Legend, but screw it. Anybody who appreciates intelligent, melodic music NEEDS the Beautiful South in their collection, and this is THE starting point.

Within The Genre - 5/5
Outside The Genre - 4.5/5

Further Listening
The Beautiful South - Welcome To The Beautiful South
The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
The Housemartins - The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death

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user ratings (16)

Comments:Add a Comment 
August 21st 2005


a truly great collection of songs , brings back memorys from when i was young . good review .

August 21st 2005


Don't even think about forming the society without me. :mad: So yeah, these guys own. So much. That's it, basically...

March 9th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

This seems like the perfect band and compilation for me. Brilliant review as par the usual.

Can I join the club? :o

March 9th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

That was the best response possible, 98.6%.

He hasn't commented since November.

May 5th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

So basically I have come to the conclusion that the Beautiful South is awesome.

May 7th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

"You Keep it All In" is fantastic.

July 16th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

such a good album. all i have to say. i'm only 14 and I've heard all these songs a good 50 times through my pa. British through n through

Dayvan Cowboy
May 28th 2008


One of the best compliation albums EVER.

September 9th 2018


Absolute fucking classic

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