Review of Beagles & Ramsay’s debut album ‘Can’t Pay Won’t Pay’ 1998

by Jim P Ward

Sonic misappropriation of musical instruments and lyrical folly, these are the watchwords which British artists / collaborators, Beagles & Ramsay have observed in the production of their first, and possibly last, album “Can’t Pay Won’t Pay”. Based in Glasgow, the duo’s album is released here on the 23rd of August on New Heads on the Block, a sub division of the infamously hit and miss Dutch label Nieuw Hoofschudden.

As the often hilarious press release reminds us, this is a smorgasbord of a record which spans a warped musical universe. From the rhumba based sing-a-long of “Granny You Love Mince” – an insidious reworking of Clive Dunn’s criminal virus “Grandad”, to the free form sampling of “All On Expenses” or the grinding bass rift and percussive drums of Geezer Gotta Flamethrower”, this is an album where there really is something for everyone. Granted some of these audio gifts may be unwelcome, some of them may even be unpalatable, but the duo can’t be faulted for their egalitarian leanings – however skewed.

Graham Ramsay is the prime culprit, committing to CD such hienous lyrical rants as, “Oh Rotten Molar” a reworking of the Scottish national anthem, Flower of Scotland. The original, a rousing battle cry of defiance and unity, is here reprocessed into a dark, gothic ‘celebration’ of the appalling state and decay of Scottish teeth (the worst in Europe I believe). This track allows Ramsay to fully expose his gargantuan talent as scribe – he is perhaps in his native land only equalled by the great poet William McGonigal. With wailing pipes and maudling drums, his limited vocal stylings offer the following incantations,

“Oh rotten molar, when will we see your like again? That chewed and ground for, our hunger there to end, our hunger blinds us and sugar sweets we munch and munch again, till thou art broken and black as night”.

I’m sure the notoriously po-faced art world don’t know what to make of such blatant acts of unrepentant disrespect for national pride. Luckily those of you not stunted by a slavish, desperate mission to appeal cool and cerebral, can enjoy the joke.

This kind of appalling humour, simultaneously funny yet desperate, fills this album . “Geezer Gotta Flamethower”, which the duo recently played live on Australia’s ABC Saturday Live radio show is the obvious standout track . Beagles & Ramsay, bullish in their folly, assured me, that this “will be the track the people will love”. Beagles, a rather surly character with other worldly hair and peculiarly long eye lashes, broke out of his somnambulist trance when this track was mentioned. On hearing the song I was curiously moved to share his enthusiasm. Sitting heavily on top of the bass and drums – “like a slab of lorne on tripe” is how one notable critic described it – Ramsay rants and raves in an extraordinary Mockney Cockney accent detailing the exploits of Gary the Misunderstood Toddler, a malcontent babe in arms, terrorizing the family with home made flamethrower. Ramsay, aping the paternalistic impulse to protect, wails repeatedly at his son’s wayward instincts, and his propensity to “nick my bleedin’ fags’. Plaintively he cries for his son and heir “to get back in this bleedin’ house, your mother’s got your pie on the table”, but to no avail. Gary, a free spirit, is simply beyond the scriptures of the law. Gary is close enough to the fevered, surrealistic scaremongering of the tabloids to ensure that any belly laughs are scorched with reality.