1. Trapped in a Constable
2. Hole In the Head Man
5. The Ballad of Osiris Stark
6. Under a Hotel Room Moon
8. One Lost Dog
9. The Sofa Song
11. Back to the Sea
13. Met My Match
If you haven’t heard of Scott Edgar and the Universe, you may still be aware of Scott Edgar’s other musical pursuits. Scott Edgar (aka Scod) is best known as being one third of musical comedy group Tripod; the other two thirds being Gatesy and Yon. One of Tripod’s most loved acts is their song in an hour challenge, where the band is given a list of things to include in the song, a mission to make it funny and a specific artists’ musical style to emulate. Tripod may only be comprised of three singers and (usually) just one acoustic guitar, but they’ve managed to nail the musical styles of everyone from Elvis to Metallica to the Pogues.
Now at this point, you might be wondering why I’m writing about Tripod and not Scott Edgar and the Universe. The first reason is to provide some background knowledge of Scott Edgar and his work in Tripod. But if you’re already familiar with Tripod, feel free to skip past what you’ve just read. The second reason is because Tripod has a strong influence on the sound of Scott Edgar and the Universe, especially in terms of the band’s musical diversity.
Scott Edgar and the Universe lists Simon and Garfunkle, Nat King Cole and The Beach Boys (among many others) as influences and their eclectic taste in music really pays off. Sometimes you may hear some blues influence in a song, other times it could be folk or alternative rock. But you’ll rarely find a track on this album that isn’t blurring genre lines. The impressive sound of the band comes from mixing acoustic guitar and drums with backing vocals, double bass, trumpet and violin. The latter instruments add an extra dimension to the arrangement and produce a sound that really resonates.
All the instruments are used very cleverly to get the most out of the song. Take Xani Kolac’s violin for example. In the opening track, Trapped in a Constable, they’re strong, Beirut-esque and drive the melody. Elsewhere the violin adds sentimental strength to the composition in One Lost Dog. It’s mainly vocals and acoustic guitar, but the strings wailing drive home the forlorn vibe of the song about a stolen pet. It’s also worth noting the clever lyrics of the song too, which are written in the form of a missing pet notice.
One Lost Dog also reveals another Tripod-ism in the band’s sound; namely, songs based on common, realistic situations given a musical twist. Most Tripod-esque of all is Sofa, which bears a striking resemblance to Tripod’s Goodbye Little Alarm Clock as both songs are odes to inanimate objects and are full of clever moments of anthropomorphism. “Wrap me in your arms/envelop me while I watch TV on my sofa/I love you so.” But this is the only song on the album that could be called comedic. While other tracks have a similar charm, the rest of the album is serious, in a laid-back sort of way.
The tone of the album is somewhat similar to a Good News For People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse or even Liam Finn’s I’ll Be Lighting. What I mean by this is that there’s a curious mix of sentimentality, humour and reality in the music, which combined creates a beautifully glib sound. The album encompasses ideas of the ignorant masses, personal loss and love with women, a dog and a sofa. It isn’t often that Scott Edgar and the Universe play it straight, preferring to keep things interesting by perpetually shifting the musical styles from song to song. Indeed, I found that some of the straight songs didn’t hit as hard as the others.
But it’s such an odd and magnificent album to listen to as the shifts in style and tone are just brilliant; after listening to a bluesy track about a sofa, a folk love song follows. They’re very different songs, but they’re linked by being odes. And that really helps give the album a nice flow to it and the entire album has a solid arc. You’re enticed at the start with the Eastern European sounds of Trapped in a Constable and forty minutes later it finishes with Elephants, which neatly restates the world outlook the album conveys. From start to finish it’s a fantastic listen that encompasses an ample spectrum of styles and moods. It’s like bubble tea with pearls; refreshing, satisfying and just damn good.