You will be hard pressed to find another recording that is quite so attuned with public sentiment in these times of mistrust and indignation. Throughout Handmade Life, Wood homes straight in on the prevailing unrest, and a potential aftermath that involves much soul searching. This is however no brash soapbox rant, with Wood avoiding patronising arrogance, and opting for a gentler, conversational style. An intimate and considered accompaniment comes courtesy of a four-piece band comprising drums, trombone, cello, and guitar, played with a restraint that serves to carry Wood's narrative along on a harmonious current.
Opening with the autobiographical backwards glance of "No Honey Tongued Sonnet," Wood reflects on a misunderstood childhood, recalling one valuable lesson from his education: "the one thing I did learn in English is she favours the tongue that is true." This is a lesson to which Wood must have paid particular attention, as his writing throughout Handmade Life is dripping with truth, albeit an uncomfortable one at times. On "Spitfires" Wood takes that most British of emblems and its associated wartime grit and determination, rebuking modern-day right-wing extremists for hijacking Britain's patriotism in the name of their own cause, mischievously reminding that the sound of the spitfire evokes "the song of how they hung a little fascist out to dry." There is no overt aggression in these lyrics, the seed is just planted and the imagery nurtured, though you're left in no doubt as to Wood's resentment.
"Hollow Point" gives the nation's shame a good airing, recounting the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes. The focus on the apparent ordinariness of De Menezes' commute to work, blinkered to the shocking events that were unfolding around him, heightens the discomfort, with an ominous tension building towards the inevitable and tragic denouement, and lyrics that seek answers yet find only exasperation. Providing a universal call to revolution, "Caesar" seems most likely aimed at those British politicians who have been filling their pockets at the expense of the electorate, and their incredulous placing of blame on "the system," a system that they created: "did you see how all the clowns were looking fatter as they tore the big top down?".
There is a further call for revolution in "The Grand Correction," where Wood casts an eye over some of the inequalities and inevitable failings that have given rise to the recent collapse of financial markets, astutely tracing the rot back to the greed instilled in society by Thatcher's government of the 1980s, and seeking little more than a return to honesty and common sense. Wood himself seems happy to accept a personal "grand correction," alluded to in "My Darling's Downsized," a return to simpler, happier times that finds Wood extolling the virtues of a life with less material worries and a greater emphasis on nurturing a personal relationship.
This is music and sentiment of which a nation should rightly be proud. Wood writes with an understated poignancy and intelligence that genuinely gives the listener something to think about, whilst also offering a glimpse of what a better world might look like.
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