The first of the Songs from The Underbelly trilogy.
This is the first Eli Records release which perfects the in-house gate-fold cardboard sleeve. The card is cut to size then embossed twice to create the folds – it’s then folded and glued by hand and pressed in batches of 5 in the nipping press.
The cover is printed 5 separate times: once for the woodblock; once for the black text; once for the spine; once for the red text and logo and finally for the hallmark blind-embossed logo in the bottom right-hand corner.
Traditionally, quality letterpress leaves a light even imprint on the page. Hartley bucks the trend and in certain areas uses lots of ink and a deep imprint, including deliberate smudging and smearing in order to create covers that can only truly be appreciated when held – 100% hand-made and printed. Nothing digitally produced could come remotely close.
The opening track Good Job, Proper Job was inspired by a chance meeting and a brief conversation about George Orwell’s Keep The Aspidistra Flying – the theme of the book (although Hartley never read it) is the conflict between doing something that you love but doesn’t pay enough to live off, versus being trapped in a rat-race job in order to pay the bills.
Using his John Lee alter-ego, Hartley created a hilariously surreal video, ripping the piss out of tedious officialdom – click on the link above to see it
Lay Your Rug was written during Hartley’s second year as a junior doctor as he struggled to come to terms with institutional working. He wrote it after sitting in a traffic jam on his way home from work. ‘Into the rush hour, tin can, tin can, crawling, crawling, everything in front’s a tractor.’ As with many of Hartley’s songs, it’s laced with cryptic metaphor. Matron’s coming, it’s time to put the crayons away was a Terry Wogan quip, striking Hartley as an exquisite metaphor for having to grow up (which fortunately he never did). ‘Thinking man’s Barbie, time to take the stitches out, grow up, grow up. I’m not quite ready yet’. There’s a nice live version here with Bish on drums and his son Bryn on bass – the link is above.