Sunday, January 31, 2016
by Simon Reynolds
Futile and foolish to analyse humour, of course, but there are some things worth noting about the Ivor Cutler experience. Often his humour lies in the confrontation between surreal or absurdly tragic phenomena, and small-minded people, who can only react within the terms of conventional propriety. Like the story of a boy who plants himself in the soil so as to grow taller. His toes take root, grow into someone else's garden, but his mother's comment is: "Luckily, it's someone we know."
Generally, Cutler extracts humour from the damage we inflict on each other, the petty immiseration of family life or just everyday brutalisation (e.g. his song about big men with intimidatingly hearty handshakes — "Put it there!/Crunch! Crunch!").
He has things to say too, being a feminist and an ecologist. His anthropomorphism is fantastical but polemical too, reminding us that this isn't our world, that the creatures have independent lives. His compassion extends to the vegetable and mineral: "we even murder salt". Cutler delights in unprivileging humanity, showing us our comeuppance, as in the story of being snubbed by a talking stone.
One prose-poem ends with a contradiction: "She was a simple and direct woman, though oblique and complicated." A perfect description of Cutler's work — like a dream, it combines lucidity and opacity, seems impossibly pregnant with meaning and yet quite blank.