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An owl wakes up at sea in a pea green boat. It is accompanied by a cat, its natural predator. There is some honey. What chain of events led to this dangerous situation?
In 2007, Stewart Lee created a hauntingly sedated rendition of the Owl and Pussycat, the 1871 poem by Edward Leer. Really bringing to the forefront, the undercurrent of edging into sinister and maddening distraughtness of the situation the animals find themselves in, Stewart Lee's transcript of the trip, sailing out into the ocean with nothing but a jar of honey, a fiver and a small guitar to see them through the ordeal takes on a new life that is both uplifting, yet calming in a way that makes the time slip by unnoticed in the manor of all the finest ambient music does.
Pressed up on pea green vinyl by Chris Evan's wonderful Go Faster Stripe (a must check for anyone into Stewart Lee's work and like minded alternative comedians and comedians providing an alternative to comedy). Pea Green Boat was composed as an extended show based around the story of an owl and a pussycat who end up stranded out at sea before a love story evolves into view. Stewart takes the story and portrays it from the eyes of the owl. Waking up unsure how it came to be trapped on a boat with the cat, its natural predator, and both dressed up as miniature mariners. The owl starts off fearing an attack in its sleep, though knowing it may match the cat's claws in a fair fight deep in the woodland, or high on the city top, or in the back room of some cockney boozer, the owl is in a weakened state having had all the bones in its wings broken with toffee hammers one by one before being woken on the pea green boat where the story is set.
The feeling of time running out becomes apparent as the days drift by, the unlikely duo spy other animals in boats sailing out to sea in other pea green boats, a spider and a fly with a web sail drift by while an elephant and a mouse slowly sinks (obviously). The owl grows suspicious of the cat when it accesses the jar of honey, questioning it maybe hiding a jar opener, but the cat expresses its true feelings for the owl, when it proposes marriage...
This woeful tale of isolation and an abstract fear of the unknown has never sounded so achingly beautiful, the ambient undercurrent composed by Jane Watkins calls to mind the slowly moving atmosphere of Eno's Thursday Afternoon, albeit if Ted Chippington popped over for a brew, the raindrop piano keys replaced by Stewart's hushed words. Pea Green boat truly brings to life the dismay and despair of the original story, yet has been written, composed and recorded in such a delicate yet heartbreaking manor that it stands to be one of the most unique pieces of music/poetry/comedy ever committed to vinyl. An absolutely essential addition to the book shelves and record collections of any and all frustrated, bitter middle aged liberals who have a penchant for Radio 4 at 6.30 pm on week days, Blue Jam, On The Hour (of which Stewart Le co-wrote) The Guardian newspaper. Also it doubles up as satire as it has animals in it.
One of the finest pieces of vinyl you are likely to come across this year or any before or after.