Reviews – June 2001
Mama’s Boys: Relativity + 5
This is a re-release of the last Mama’s Boys CD originally released on a Swiss label in 1992 with five additional live tracks recorded in Europe November/December 1990. Mama’s Boys played classic late 80’s hard rock with the great guitar playing of Pat McManus and the classy blues voice of Mike Wilson, but what really makes this CD stand out (and the reason why I’m including a hard rock CD in the reviews) is the fusion of fiddle and uilleann with great blues based hard rock on tracks such as ‘Left and Right’ ’Cardboard City’ and especially ‘Falling’ also check out their interpretation of the traditional ‘Mourlough Shore’. Drummer Tommy McManus died in 1994 from leukemia and the band split. Brother’s Pat and john McManus now play in the excellent New Age Celtic band Celtus (Flogging Molly fans might be interested to know Dave King was briefly vocalist for Mama’s Boys).
The Kings of Nuthin’: Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying
Not quite in the genre of celtic/folk/punk/whatever are the Kings of Nuthin. I recently came across them by accident when they played with The Skels at the Linwood in Boston and they really blew me away. Their Debut EP ‘Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying’ is eight tracks of bad-assed rock-a-billy infused with the intensity and attitude of punk along with the best vocals this side of Tom Waits.
Saints Bushmill’s Choir: Give ‘Em Enough Booze
Saint Bushmill’s Choir come from the Capital Hill section of Seattle and perfectly describe themselves as a ‘Clash cover band that plays mostly Pogues songs’, hence the title ‘Give Em Enough Booze’. This is a five track EP of their interpretation of some Irish folk favorites including ‘The Foggy Dew’, and a really great version of ‘Sam Hall’. Eric Greenwalt has a great dirty punk voice and the band are tight and capable especially with the Irish instruments.
Filthy Thieving Bastards: Our Fathers Sent Us
The Filthy Thieving Bastards is Johnny Bonnel and Darius Koski of Swingin’ Utters fame side project. The EP (9 tracks – longer the most CD releases) is a non-cover version tribute CD in the style of their hero’s-The Pogues (mainly), Billy Brag (some), Iggy and the Stooges, The Ramones, The Clash, John Lennon and Elvis (P&C). Musically for the most part it is punked up acoustic guitars with some nice mandolin and banjo running through it, very like the post Shane MacGowan Pogues, almost the CD the Pogues could have made if they didn’t split after ‘Pogue Mahone’. Other notable Tracks include ‘Thick’ a Stooges/Garage romp and the excellent ‘S.S.S’, which sounds like The Clash at their very best.
Hamell On Trial: Ed’s Not Dead – – – Hamell Comes Alive
The best way to describe Ed Hamell is a small sweaty bald guy pushing forty who plays his 1937 small-body Gibson acoustic guitar like a Tommy Gun. ‘Ed’s Not Dead – – – Hamell Comes Alive’ was recorded in Los Angeles last year when Ed opened for Ani DeFranco – just before his near fatal car crash (thankfully he’s recovered and is back on the road again). Live is the best way to experience Hamell On Trial and this CD really brings across the intensity of Ed’s live show – A one-man band armed with a battered acoustic playing it like you’ve never heard before, through a hugh Marshall Stack and telling tales of Pimps, Prostitutes, Junkies and life’s losers (plus a couple of sensitive numbers just to throw you), along with his between song banter and X-rated humor. This is Folk punk at its best with some great standup/spoken word thrown in for free – enough to make James Taylor have a heart attack. 16 tracks of acoustic intensity including a version Folson Prison Blues that will leave Mike Ness quaking in his fairy boots. Highly Recommended – my only disappointment is that Ed leaves out the Stevie Nicks story. Cat Steven’s this ain’t.
Dropkick Murphys: Sing Loud, Sing Proud!
The Dropkick Murphys could only come from Boston with their mix of Irish folk, 77 style punk and blue collar politics. The most noticeable thing about ‘Sing Loud, Sing Proud!’ is the continuing shift in musical style from a street punk band punking up a couple of traditional Irish songs on earlier CD’s to a fully-fledged Celtic-punk outfit. This move has been helped along by the addition of Ryan Foltz (Mandolin & Tin Whistle), Marc Orrell (Guitar & Accordion) and Spicy McHaggis (Bagpipes).
The CD opens with the all bagpipes and soccer terrace chants of ‘For Boston’ the Boston College fight song. ‘The Legend of Finn MacCumhail’ follows, which was originally the b-side of ‘Curse of a Fallen Soul’ but its way to good a track to languish as a vinyl only b-side. Track 3 is the old union standard ‘Which Side Are You One?’ (also done by Billy Bragg). In the tradition and style of ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ and ‘The Fighting 69th’ the band cover the old Irish fighting song ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’. Next up in the vein of BAC is the full throttle bagpipe punk of ‘Heroes From Our Past’. ‘Forever’ is a slower almost (I don’t want to say it) power ballad. ‘The Gauntlet’ is catchy punk with the great melodies that the DKMs specialize in. ‘Good Rats’ is a chant it out traditional sounding Irish drinking song with the very sloshed sounding Shane MacGowan trading vocals with Al Barr. ‘The New American Way’ ‘The Fortunes of Way’ dedicated to Brian Deneke and ‘Ramble and Roll’ are all powerful straightforward punk tracks. Al Barr’s vocals sound great on ‘The Torch’ a slower acoustic number sound about how parents can breed ignorance & bitterness in their children. ‘A Few Good Men’ is a fast acoustic track with chanting backing vocals in the style of ‘Gangs All Here’. ‘Caps and Bottles’ from ‘Boys On The Docks’ is re-recorded here – great track – but I don’t know why it’s needed. Finally we have the much covered ‘Wild Rover’ (the toothless wonder Shane MacGowan on vocal vinyl only) played just right with a real barroom feeling and ‘The Spicy McHaggis Jig’ a bagpipe led chant about the a-fore mentioned Spicy’s love life. In short BUY THIS CD or better still BUY THE LP.
Reviews – July 2001
The Nogoodnix: Pub Punk United
On a scale of Folk to Punk the Nogoodnix hit a Punk 9 and a Folk 1. Formally a red mohawked, union jack (???) clad punk band called the Trauma School Dropouts they reinvented themselves in ‘99 as a ‘Pub Punx’ band. Musically the band plays really good Clash/77 style punk with an infusion of Irish/Pub Rock – actually the remind me a lot of The Real McKenzie’s (w/out the bagpipes). My big problem with this CD though is the ‘Darby O’Gill’ vocals that singer Duane Beer seems to slip into on the more Irish oriented numbers – Duane Beer is a really great punk vocalist who’s voice really carries the punk tracks but when he breaks into the ‘Lucky Charm’s’ voice it just doesn’t work. All the same a really good CD – outstanding tracks include: the mid temp ‘Angelina’, the punk rock of ‘Untimely Blessings’, ‘Wrong Again’ and ‘Every Now And Then’. ‘Piss On Luck’ with its Louie Armstrong introduction that then charges into Clash style punk.
The Pogues: The Very Best Of
In my humble opinion The Pogues were at least the greatest rock band of the eighties if not one of the greatest band of all time – but if your reading this zine then you already know that (and if you didn’t then fuck off your on the wrong site). The Very Best Of… contains twenty one of their best known tracks each one a classic but each one that you probably already own already. The big question is why was this released (even the former band members were unaware this was coming out)- apart from as another record company rip-off. When is the record company going to wise up, stop trying to rip people off and put out that collection of rare shit we’ve been waiting for.
Track Listing: Dirty Old Town, Irish Rover w/ The Dubliners, Sally MacLennane, Fiesta, A Pair Of Brown Eyes, Fairytale Of New York w/ Kirsty MacColl, The Body Of An American, Streams Of Whiskey, The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn, If I Should Fall From Grace With God, Misty Morning, Albert Bridge, Rain Street, White City, A Rainy Night In Soho, London Girl, Boys From The County Hell, The Sunny Side Of The Street, Summer In Siam, Hell’s Ditch, The Old Main Drag, And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.
The Real McKenzies: Fat Club 7″ Singles Club
Two tracks of bagpipe driven 77’ style punk from your favorite SCOTTISH PUNK ROCK GODS! Its out through the Fat Chord Wreck’s single’s club on blue wax – get it if you can. See yee Jimmy, Och I!
The Tossers: Communication & Conviction (The Last Seven Years)
This CD was a nice introduction to the windy city’s The Tossers. The CD is actually a compilation of the first two now hard to find Tossers releases, 1994’s ‘The Pint of No Return’ and 1996’s ‘We’ll Never Be Sober Again’, along with a couple of out-takes from the ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya’ sessions and a live version of ‘The Irish Rover’. ‘The Pint Of No Return’ was I believe The Tossers first release and it’s fast and frantic acoustic punk with a nice mix of original and Irish standards. ‘We’ll Never Be Sober Again’ shows a much bigger sounding polished band with added horns and female vocals while still keeping true to their roots. Real good stuff and I look forward to hearing a lot more from The Tossers.
Blood or Whiskey: No Time To Explain
I can’t quite remember how I discovered ‘Blood or Whiskey’ but some how I came across their self titled debut CD (on ‘Sounds Records’ later re-recorded on ‘Rejected Records’) three or so years ago and it’s raw traditional Irish based punk would have put it straight to near the top of my list of favorite CD’s of all time if I was into keeping lists. So with bated breath I awaited the new CD. Could the band really improve on the classic first CD? And in short yes. The band still play fast hard edged ‘Trad Punk’ with Barney Murray still sounding like the bastard son of Ronnie Drew and Shane MacGowan (perish that image – yuch). Musically they have slightly expanded their sound (not a bad thing) adding in the catchy as hell Undertone’s style choruses, a touch of ‘The Clash’ and do I hear the ‘cut your bullshit attitude’ of early ‘The Radiators (From Space)’? So if you haven’t heard Blood or Whiskey before and are willing to take a chance on some thing special then you won’t go wrong here. Probably the only CD that can give ‘Flogging Molly’s’ ‘Swagger’ a run for its money. I’d almost say it’s the best thing to come out of Leixlip, Co. Kildare since Arthur Guinness brewed that very first pint of Guinness in 1756.
My favorite songs so far, though this will change with repeated listening are:
‘Your Majesty’, fast trad punk about Bob Geldof and his OBE (Order of the British Empire) – an award ‘Sir’ Bob received from Queen Betty II herself and what Barney and the lads think he should have told her to do with it. ‘Frank’, another fast one that sound like it’s written about someone I know.
‘Rudy’ with it’s ska feel and the punky ‘Paranoid State’ and ‘Breaking Through’
Blood or Whiskey: Never Be Me / Sober Again CD-S
This CD single is an Ireland only release teaser from Blood or Whiskey’s new full length CD ‘No Time To Explain’ (reviewed above). The ‘A Side’ tracks are from the CD, ‘Never Be Me’ a fast temp catchy as hell Pogues/Undertones hybrid, which won’t scare the old dears who listen to ‘The Larry Grogan Show’ (is he still alive?) and ‘Sober Again’, a slow ‘bhoys’ on the way home from the pub sing-along. The ‘B Side’ has two previously unreleased songs ‘Oh Oh’ an anti-love song – fast and spiteful and ‘Kelly of Killann’ the old Clancy standard given the ‘Blood or Whiskey’ kick up the arse – worth buying just for this.
Reviews – August 2001
Cruachan w/Shane MacGowan: Ride On CDS
All right I admit it; I was a Heavy Metal fan back in the Eighties – so out the window goes any credibility I had! But at least I feel well qualified to review this disk. Cruachan mix Metallica pre-“Black” album riffing (not really Death Metal at all) with Tin Whistle, Irish Flute, Bódhran and Uilleann pipes along with a heavy dose of Celtic mythology.
Shane MacGowan does a nice job producing this 4 track CDEP ensuring the traditional instruments are not lost in the metal mix. Shane also lends some vocals to their cover of the song Christy Moore made famous ‘Ride On’ though this is a lot closer to Metallica’s ‘One’ with it’s slow gentle introduction that grow more and more powerful as the song progresses climaxing in some very intense riffing. Shane duets with vocalist Karen Gilligan at the song’s beginning, the Metal vocals of Keith Fay replacing Shane as the song progresses.
“Maeves March 2001” is a Chieftains gone Metal instrumental; “Sauron” is similar in style to the English Folk-Metal’s of Skyclad and “To Hell or to Connaught” just want’s to be Horselips “Trouble”
Hudson Falcons: For Those Whose Hearts and Souls Are True
The Falcons are the house band of Jersey highways and back alleys, of fast cars, fast women, burning rubber and gun smoke on the eve of a patriot worker’s revolution
GMM records have released the second full-length album from New Jersey’s own Hudson Falcons “For Those Whose Hearts and Souls Are True.” After a blistering first effort, “Desperation and Revolution” what can you expect? A Sophomore Jinx? Hell no!
If you’re familiar with the Falcons, you already know what to expect – balls out, working class street rock-n-roll (heavy on the rock-n-roll, motherfuckers!) For those of you not familiar, well, please, introductions all around: The Falcons have been aptly described as “Springsteen fronting the Clash” or “Van Morrison fronting Cock Sparrer” or my own “The gang from the Wanderers singing for Stiff Little Fingers” (As in, they got that Brooklyn/Jersey Doo-Wop/Chuck Berry street corner rock-n-roll sound combined with the frontrunners of ’77.) Well, that’s about as accurate musically as I can get, anyway. Lyrically, Mark Linskey has always dealt with the plight of the oppressed, whether it be the abused working class, abandoned vets, Irish history/politics, political prisoners or any other faction that has been stepped on – Mark steps up as their voice….and then there’s the good time rock-n-roll and tales of the Jersey wastelands.
A few things have changed since the first album – namely, it’s players. Mark Linskey is still leading the troops into battle on guitar and lead vocals and guitar virtuoso “Uncle” Chris Lynn is still kicking ass on each cut as expected. However, the bass and drum slots have been taken over by former Brassknuckle Boys Craighton Fischer and Ben Glotzbach and they sound tighter than Sister Mary Pat on a Sunday. The band is fucking rocking like never before.
This album works thematically much like some of the Boss and Little Stevie’s old tales (A ripping cover of “Open All Night” is here!) back when they were “Jersey scumbags” (to quote Mark Lind.) Fast cars, fast women, working your ass off for a livin’ and gettin’ by with rock-n-roll are all themes the record sings the praises of. Frontman Mark Linskey’s tales remind me of both the grizzled old bartender spewing truths to his patrons and of the working class Joe listening to them, all the while hoping to change his world, but wondering deep down if he can. A struggle, yes, but as “Disciples of Soul” notes, it’s one that’s worth listening to and worth fighting for: “Here’s to the wars that can’t be won/Another song that shouldn’t be sung/Another soul that can’t be saved/Another man who died tryin’ anyway/I’m gonna die tryin’ anyway.”
“For Those….” is still telling tales of the working class and pro-Union sentiment on cuts like “I’m a Worker” “Scab” and “Real Tough Guy.” The odes to rock-n-roll are still there on “Sleep, Drive, Rock-n-Roll, Repeat” (A close cousin to “L.A.M.F” from the first record) and “Sweet Rock ‘n’ Rollin’ Bad-Ass Bitch.” My favorite cut on the album is probably the heart-felt rocker called “Loyalty” where the Falcons crew outline what they’re about and what they expect in return. No explanations needed. “I got you’re back, now you get mine.”
Linskey gives the middle finger to all those who have given the Falcons grief for their politics (for being too patriotic, not patriotic enough, IRA sympathizers, Communists, etc) on “Requiem For a Patriot.” The line: “It’s the patriot’s duty to speak up and take a stand/Against the enemies of freedom who kill the common man/If we sit and do nothing we’re as guilty as the damned” says it all. Amen to that and fuck off to any thick motherfucker who doesn’t get it.
There aren’t really any Irish-flavored songs on this release, there didn’t need to be. I have spoken with Mark and he is an articulate student of Irish history/politics, so I know he is well versed in the arena. And of course, they covered the old Wolfe Tones classic “Come Out Ye Black and Tans” and anyone who has heard “Brenda Murphy” knows they can go trad. in the wink of an eye, but it’s refreshing in the sense that the Falcons don’t have to include the “Irish song” just to include it for the sake of. Just straight up street rock-n-roll burning as it goes down like a shot of whiskey. (Speaking of all things Irish, though, one of my favorite cuts is “Fallen Heroes” which was co-written with former Dropkick Murphy Rick Barton.)
“No mess, no fuss, just pure impact” (to borrow a time-honored Oi! Slogan) is how the Falcons do it. Time honored traditions and values are what the Falcons uphold. The Falcons live what they preach. They are always out on the road, so come check ‘em out when the blow through your town and definitely pick up this album.
Keep on fighting the good fight – you know the Falcons will: “Every day another fight/Against desperation in the night/It’s the Promised Land we seek/but hey, we’re a different breed.”
Review by Sean Holland
Big Bad Bollocks: Night On the Tiles
The Big Bad Bollocks are the East Coast answer to a combination of the Macc Lads and the Pogues. (To steal a pretty much accurate description I once read.) BBB, however, come across as a more traditional English group on the piss (utilizing mainly squeezebox and tin whistle for the folky stuff) and things are expressed from a decidedly English point of view.
Johnny ‘Alien’ Allen is a Liverpool transplant/poet/playwright whose views and viewpoint can be summed up nicely in the title of their second album, “Night On the Tiles.” Released in 1999 on Monlyth records, it’s a drunken good time, with attitude, wit and a bit o’ heart as well. With songs that range from a tribute to everyone’s favorite “Guinness,” to a rollicking ode “Drinkup Yabastards” and the sea-shanty-ish “Drunker Than I Was” (it being a grand example of a whiskey-fueled roll in the hay) it’s not hard to gauge the album’s main creative fuel. The BBB do love a good drink, but are more-talented than you may think Allen’s playwright background turns more serious on “Uncle Ted”, a tale of working class hell and the sheer dead-on descriptive-ness of “Aunty Mary” makes you laugh your arse off and wonder where Allen comes up with it all. Then they can rock-n-roll like a demented Buddy Holly on “Motorcycle Jacket” and the Cockney/English music hall tradition pops up in “Tiddly Om Pom”…a great little ditty.
All in all, the album would fit in very nicely playing over the speakers in your local pub’s loo, as you release another night’s hard work and chuckle with relief. Pick it up and slam it back, it’s your ’round. (Also check out their first EP “Where the Beef Meets the Sea” and if possible, their split 7″ with the now defunct oi legends All Systems Stop.)
Review by Sean Holland
The Prodigals: Dreaming In Hell’s Kitchen
Four piece NYC based The Prodigals have been described by no less a rag as New York’s Village Voice as “Jig Punk”, a term that I would disagree with as it seems limiting to what The Prodigals are trying to achieve musically. The Prodigals to me seem to fall somewhere between the frantic Folk-Punk of The Tosser and the more experimental New Yorkism’s of Black 47, yet still firmly rooted to a rich understanding of the traditions of where the music comes from, along with a bass line that can only be described as a living breathing organism that just drives the music.
“Dreaming In Hell’s Kitchen” the follow up to 1999’s “Go On” sees the band further expand their sound bringing in African folk sounds to complement the Irish folk. Sometimes I think I am hearing an Irish Dave Matthews Band or even touches of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” (especially on “Happy Man”). “Dreaming In Hell’s Kitchen” is certainly less “Jig Punk” then “Go On” and the band seem to have made a conscious decision to strive for commercial success on their own terms.
“Dreaming In Hell’s Kitchen” is a classy CD, beautifully written, played and produced by a band that have set their sights on big goals and they certainly have the talent to achieve those goals.
Devil’s Advocates: Free Radio
Brooklyn, New York’s The Devil’s Advocates is one of Scott M.X. Turners musical vehicles the other being The United 32’s and his solo project. For those unfamiliar with The Devil’s Advocates they fuse “driving punk, reggae punk, Irish punk, acoustic punk, drunk punk, more reggae, dub and pop” with heavy Irish Republican and left wing activism (he makes Billy Bragg sound like George W. Bush) influenced lyrics.
“Free Radio” is heavy on the politics; it’s a fundraiser for a radical left of center New York Radio station that is clashing with its new owners. Musically its chanting Rage Against The Machine post-metal crossed with some very Wolf Tones sounding tin whistle. Good stuff.
Reviews – September 2001
The Rogue’s March: Never Fear (CD)
NYC’s Rogue’s March have been playing the bars and clubs (and most recently the “Warped Tour”) of New York and further a field since the early nineties. Lead by the whiskey and cigarettes throated London-Irish man Joe Hurley; a fine songwriter and storytelling lyrist in the rich tradition of Shane MacGowan, Dave King and Bruce Springsteen.
“Never Fear” was originally released in 1994 and now re-pressed (hence the review plus Joe sent me copy along with the newie “Chaser”). Could best be described as imagine Johnny Cash and Shane MacGowan sharing a bottle of Johnny Walker Red, smoking butts and trading songs and stories in a seedier bar on 2nd Avenue.
Outstanding tracks include; the live favorite and no f**kin around Celtic punk of “Shut Up and Drink”, the hardcore country of “I Wish My Wife Was a Country Singer” and the punked up Scottish traditional “McPherson’s Lament”. A fine debut CD that if it had come out on a major label with a big name producer it would be sitting in your collection right now.
The Rogue’s March: Chaser (CD)
I remember being very surprised to read that The Rogue’s March had been asked to play “The Warped Tour”. Sure they were a very good bar band and “Never Fear” was a fine album, but that’s all they were was a bar band. That opinion changed upon hearing “Chaser” the band’s 1998 (and soon to be re-released nation wide) album. Not only should The Rogue’s March have been on the bill but a darn sight higher up it.
The Rogue’s March have matured both musically and lyrically over the 4 years between “Never Fear” and “Chaser” and now also have the excellent production of James Mastro to do full justice to the songs. “Chaser” is packed full of Joe Hurley’s tales of low-life on the big city (New York, London, Paris and Berlin), cheap whiskey, violence, psychos and whores.
The band are real musical magpies, sure it’s still the Irish-Country-Punk of “Never Fear” but your going to hear classic rock’n’roll, cabaret, post punk, some Nick Cave/Tom Waits style ballads and a couple of tracks that The Rolling Stones could have written when they were anygood. Hopefully Chaser takes The Rogue’s March to the next level.
Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros: Global A Go-Go (CD)
The coolest man on the planet is back in action.
Joe and the Pesky Meskys are back with their second release on Hellcat records. Lest there be any illusions on my feelings for Mr. Strummer, the statement above alone should shatter them. Strummer and the Clash are, in my eyes, the most important figures in the history of punk rock. Well, at least in the Top 5. So, when Joe signed with Hellcat a few years ago and released his first album, “Rock, Art and the X-Ray Style,” I was ecstatic. I bought the album and liked it quite a bit. I got pretty much what I expected – an eclectic mix of styles and experiments with world music/beats (Caribbean, African, South American) glued together by that familiar Strummer vocal style.
I was, however, somewhat surprised by the backlash by some of the ‘fans.’ Joe has always pushed the Clash beyond three-chord punk rock into reggae, rockabilly, rap and numerous other musical style, to mixed-reviews, but as always, it’s the people’s vote that matters: They say when “Sandinista” was released, you could walk around in Brooklyn and hear strains of early rap pioneers alongside “The Magnificent Seven” blasting out from the ghettos and street corners. Joe isn’t going to remain stagnant and he isn’t going to release an album like the first Clash LP, so get over it.
That said, “Global A Go-Go” is a fairly accurate title. Global is the scope and also the musical style. The album encompasses the aforementioned different music genres and a wealth of musical instruments, mixes and dubs, as did its predecessor. Starting with the almost folksy “Johnny Appleseed” you can tell Joe and the boys are in top form. “Cool ‘N’ Out’ sounds like it could’ve come off “Sandanista” with it’s dubby overtones and almost techno-ish backbeat, with Joe dropping science over a horn section in the background. The title track rocks out again with a world-ish type beat, complete with the raging bongos. “Bhindi Bhagee” is an example of an African/Caribbean-style rocker. Joe mixes balladry, like on “Mondo Bongo” and experimentation and rockers throughout, closing with a 17:00 version of the old Irish song “The Minstrel Boy” which is a masterpiece. Joe’s vocals are ethereal, far in the background, almost ghostly, fitting the subject matter perfectly, while the tune itself gets a more dubby/techno-ish mix: A song and an album with a vision and a message – many messages. Just what you would expect from ol’ Joe. So it goes with this eclectic album.
Judging by the reviews posted on Hell-cat.com, most fans get what Joe is doing, but you have the occasional mug who posts something along the ridiculous lines of: “ok I really dont like this album cuz its like fucking folk and country and shit but I wouldnt talk shit about the Clash if I had fucking gun to my head the Clash was awesome” (an actual post.) Wow. How eloquent and introspective, considering the Clash loved and utilized both folk and country. Oh well, if the Offspring t-shirt wearing mall-punks don’t like this, than it’s all the more punk in my opinion. Before the release of his first album for Hellcat, Joe said “this aint no kiddie rockabilly” and he’s right. He’s older, more mature and shouldn’t be expected to re-write albums he wrote in his twenties. Tunnel vision is the enemy of good music, he believes. To quote Joe “Whether it’s jazz or punk or anything else, you have to fight against the purists who want to narrow the definition. That’s what kills music because it stifles it to death.”
Review by Sean Holland
The Real McKenzies: Loch’d & Loaded (CD)
Vancouver’s favorite pissy-drunk Scottish-Canadian sons are at it again with their third full-length LP “Loch’d and Loaded.” This marks the Real Macs debut in the spotlight, so to speak: on Honest Don’s Records, a subsidiary of Fat Wreck Chords. This is no surprise, as Fat Mike, the owner of both, once raved the Macs were “the best band I’ve ever seen.” For those of you unfamiliar with the Macs, I’d say that if, back in the 13th Century, William Wallace commissioned the Rezillos, the Skids or any other upstart, ’77-style Scottish punk band to march alongside his pipers into battle, this was what you would get: anthemic, melodious and fast-driven punk songs, propelled along by bagpipes, a healthy dose of Scottish pride, and fuelled by the water of life. Suffice to say, the troops would be pumped enough to fill Loch Ness with the bodies of invading Englishmen.
While their first two efforts were solid and, in several instances, brilliant, their third LP eclipses all expectations. The production is first rate and all the songs scream melody. Call-and-response vocals fill the songs and they stick to you like the spleen of the enemy you just hacked apart out on the Scottish glen. The musicianship has also vastly improved and the album rocks with a sense of Gaelic purpose on the verge of going AWOL. The Macs do the ’77-style so right, it’s scary and the pipe playing is top notch and utilized in nearly every track. Lyrically, the Macs deal with themes of rebellion, drinking and most other things Scottish and it works very well, in a more humorous and light-hearted tone than many other bands of the genre.
So, although the other two Macs releases seemed spotty, (and are harder to get anyway) this exceeded all my expectations. Favorite tracks include “Nessie,” “Pickled,” “Scots ‘Round the World” “Swords of a Thousand Men” and my favorite, “Wild Cattieyote.” Also included are the trads “Flower of Scotland,” “Bonnie Mary,” and the hilarious “Donald Where’s Yer Troosers?” (Once done to perfection by the Men They Couldn’t Hang.) Pick it up as soon as possible, by a bottle of Glen Fiddich or Glen Livet (any Glen will do) paint your face, put in “Braveheart” with volume down and throw this in and see if you have any furniture left in tact at the end of the night.
Review by Sean Holland
Darkbuster V’s Tommy & the Terrors: Split (CD)
Darkbuster (5 tracks)
This is Darkbuster’s swansong (very Led Zeppelin eh?), who have sadly split up after their Middle East show last month. This is fast catchy Budweiser soaked party punk with balls. A little mellower then live; more a pub punk feel especially on “Good Times” with its boozy barroom chorus, also check out the bastardization of “Danny Boy”, where Danny moves to London and ends up on the skids.
Tommy & the Terrors (4 tracks)
First off apologies to T. & the T., last month I claimed they were now a four piece in my live review; actually Mike is now playing guitar and a new bass player has joined – must have been real drunk guys. T. & the T. play “Yobcore”; a cross between Oi, Street Punk with a good dose of old school Boston hardcore played with the f**k you attitude of a soccer hooligan. With the exception of the Oi-ish “Washed Up” with its fluid guitar playing the T. & the T. songs on offer here are tipping the needle towards the hardcore end of the scale. Defiantly music for those with more extreme taste.
Siobhan: McGravy’s Iron Liver (CD-EP)
One of the best things about running a zine is it allows me to be exposed to music I’d never otherwise have the opportunity to hear. Siobhan from British occupied America (Only Joking guys – they are from Ottawa, Canada) are a perfect example. Siobhan are a heavily Pogues influence Irish-folk-punk band with a good dose of Jewish/Russian Klezmer thrown in to spice up the mix.
“McGravy’s Iron Liver” is a six song CD-EP “recorded very live at home with a single microphone”, but nevertheless has excellent sound. Track one “Roll me to the Ground”, is very Poguesy, very “Red Roses for me”, “Canon in D” is that classical piece by Pachelbel usually heard on toilet paper commercials and the like, Siobhan merge it with some Russian jig type music to create an Irish-Russian-Classical-Jig-Punk™ instrumental type thing. “Augeline” is a mellower acoustic / Irish number and the traditional “Recruiting Sergeant” most of you will be familiar with from either The Clancy’s version or The Pogues “Medley”. “Rose of London” is a slower darker drinking number that’s a little too close musically to “Boolavogue”. The CD end’s with the fast Irish/Russian Jig Punk of “The Celtbot”, if you can imagine drunken Russian sailors on a Dublin pub crawl this is that sound.
A great introduction to a very enthusiastic young band from Canada (Only Joking guys – they are from British occupied America).
Skanatra: Skanatra (CD)
Not quite in the Irish-Folk-Punk-Whateverthefuck category is Skanatra.
Skanatra’s début self-titled CD could be reviewed in two words “this grooves”. If you haven’t guessed from the band name, Hoboken’s (where else could they be from) Skanatra are a Ska tribute band to the chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra. Ten tracks of Frank’s best know classics (“Lady Is a Tramp”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “High Hopes”, “Witchcraft”, “The Coffee Song”, “Luck Be a Lady”, “My Kind of Town”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “New York, New York”, “That’s Life”), all catchy as hell yet still true to the originals. A great party album.
Dogshit Sandwich: GGYFC (7″)
Wow! Heavy shit here. Uncompromising early 80’s influenced punk rock . DSS are a Birmingham, UK based mostly Irish punk band – like the Exploited with an Irish touch. No chance of ever seeing these guys on “The Warped Tour” – and I doubt they want to be on it. Punk rock at it’s purest. The title track is about 70’s Glam Star Garry Glitter and how the pervert got himself in trouble.
Best track is “Wannabe” which contains the classic line ” I wanna be like Shane MacGowan – sing Billy’s Bones and The Dirty Old Town”
Not for the faint hearted or those easily offended
Reviews – October 2001
Neck: Necked (A Few Odds From The Oul’ Sods) (CD)
Neck is easily one of the best Folk-Punk bands presently on the scene today. Leeson O’Keeffe has almost the perfect pedigree, an ex-Punk right down to the authentic Cockney accent (the real thing not the phony Green Day accent), was raised on the same street as Johnny Rotten, in the same North London neighborhood as the Pogues and apprenticed under the master himself Shane MacGowan as a member of the Popes.
Necked (A Few Odds From The Oul’ Sods), is really just a compilation of tracks taken from the “Psycho Ceilidh” EP and various demo’s and out-takes recorded over the last couple of years, specially pressed to help finance the just completed US tour and as a stop gap till the first real album is released.
It’s really great to now have some of my live favorites on CD – “Hello Jakey!” is fast punkie and Irish, “Loud ’n’ Proud ’n’ Bold” is Loud ’n’ Proud ’n’ Bold, “Shite’n’Onions” (where I nicked the zine name from) is a frantic jig/reel and “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day” is played loud, fast and totally different from the Pogues version of the old Jacobite song. “Fields of Athenry” is good, but Brush Shields does it better – sorry guys. “Topless Mary Poppins” (the best song title of the year) is again Irish in a Flogging Molly style and the excellent and strangely titled “Here’s Mud In Yer Eye” is a tale of an old Rebel and a classic in the style of Luke Kelly or Shane MacGowan.
If you haven’t already picked this up at one of their recent gigs then I strongly urge you to get in touch and order a copy before they disappear.
Perfect: Sickly Men of Thirty or So… (CD)
Englishman Jamie Clarke first came to prominence in the 80’s rock group “Innocence Lost”, and had some minor success with that band. After “Innocence Lost” split Jamie was asked to play 5 live shows with the Pogues filling in for the sick Phil Chevron, 5 gigs turned to 5 years. Jamie was also involved in the songwriting (“The Sun And The Moon”) for the last Pogues album “Pogue Mahone”. After the Pogues, Jamie moved to Germany and hooked up with Padja Zaric, the highly regarded Bosnian high-speed accordion player and formed “Perfect”.
“Sickly men of thirty or so…” is the third full length from the band (and the first with drummer Andreas Schabinger) and what a widely diverse album it is, Punk, Folk, Country, Garage and classic British Pop influences from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. For the most part Jamie seems to have moved back to his 80’s roots. The music is acoustic based (but not always) Beatles influenced British pop mixed with a heavy doses of Padja’s accordion that gives “Perfect” it’s very distinctive identity.
“Adorable” is the best song, classic British Pop, a hit single if there was any justice (or taste) left in the world. Pogues fan should check out the cover of “I Fought the Law” the accordion makes it much more Joe Strummer with the Pogues then the Clash. “Sheer Perfection”, “Oh Man”, “Moving Up” and especially “Heart Shaped Sunglasses” (co written with Spider Stacy and James McNally) are all highlights.
The Mahones: Here Comes Lucky (CD)
Canada’s the Mahones along with the Tossers and the Rogues March are the founders of the Celtic-Punk scene in North America. I remember seeing these guys play a blistering set five or six years ago at the first (and last) annual Cambridge Celtic festival and later that same day the played another great set at the Cambridge House of Blues to a bunch of disinterested liggers who were too interested in looking cool then have a good time at a party for Dan Aykroyd’s (a fan of the band) awful Boston filmed movie “Celtic Pride”.
“Here Comes Lucky” is the Mahones fourth album and while they are still playing that finger blistering “punkier then the Pogues” sound they are famous for, they have like fellow veterans the Rogues March matured (a little) and have worked in a lot more influences then just Shane MacGowan, including the Replacements (Raise Your Hands), Tom Petty (One Last Shot), the Waterboys (Will You Marry Me), the weepie “Miles Apart” and my favorite the Cow punk of “Going Back to Dublin”.
A Great CD with not a bad track to be heard.
Tenspeedracer:Eskimo Beach Boy (CD)
Oh Yeah! Dublin band Tenspeedracer’s debut CD on Boston’s Catapult Records brings me way back to the glory days Irish indie rock (as opposed to alternative rock – which isn’t). Ten years ago the Dublin “Music Head” walked tall with a confident swagger. Dublin’s U2 were the biggest band in the world, there was an estimated thousand bands gigging in and around Dublin, the sky was the limit for expectations for the cream of those bands (A House, An Emotional Fish and the Fatima Mansions).
Today the Dublin “Music Head” scratches his/her head and wonders how it all could have gone so horribly, horribly wrong. Sure U2 are still the biggest band in the world, but to most people these days Irish music is the disposable pap of boy bands such as Westlife or Boyzone.
Tenspeedracer’s “Eskimo Beach Boy” could be the CD that finally puts the spring back into the step of the Dublin “Music Head”. This is classic Irish indie rock – where ground zero is Iggy and the Stooges and the Velvet Underground with a nod in the direction of the Beatles and U2. Highly reminiscent of Irish bands such as My Blood Valentine, Rollerskate Skinny, Whipping Boy and early That Petrol Emotion and Scotland’s Jesus and Mary Chain, all buzz guitars, mellow vocals and dreamy 60’s pop.
The saviors of Irish rock? I hope so – if it’s not too late already.
Dolomites: Lovely day for a Hogshead of Whiskey (CD)
I could make a quick buck with this CD. Burn some copies of it and flog them on eBay as out-takes from the upcoming Shane MacGowan and the Popes CD “20th Century Paddy” and you know what most people wouldn’t even know the difference – legend has it (or the bio at least) Shane heard these guys playing over a pub stereo in Portland and asked “Is that me?”
If you had not guessed already the Dolomites are highly influenced by Shane MacGowan, A fact that they ware proudly on their sleeve. According to the bio band founders Stevhen Ianeu and Max Skewes were backpacking in England and spending their last night in the infamous Filthy McNastys and when wanders (stumbles?) the great man himself and to cut a long story short after a long night drinking with Shane the two bhoys decide to start a band on their return to the States.
Musically “Lovely day for a Hogshead of Whiskey” is very early Pogues, but with some nice touches of Eastern European, Asian and American Folk giving it some originality and of course some Whiskey soaked Sea Shanty’s that the Pogues used to do so well. Also check out the awesome cover of Eric Bogels “Green Fields of France” – the best I’ve heard.
Lyrically it’s the classic Whisked soaked Nihilism of “Boy’s from the County Hell” and “Transmetropolitan” and the vocals just spit out the words in classic Shane style.
“The Medicine Show ” is the follow up EP to Hogshead. The band seems to have totally reinvented itself. Gone are the “Shaneism’s” replaced by if you can imagine a sort of Evil Clown/Gypsy folk sound with lots of clarinets and weird circus noises and even a touch of Louie Armstrong – very strange sounding altogether.
Clarias: Intro (CD-EP)
Clarias is a Boston band that has been giging around locally since 1999. “Intro” is a six-track introduction CD from the band. Musically this is classy, well written and played acoustic jam rock, heavy on the saxophone with some nice fluid guitar and the touch of a Ska groove that is somewhat reminisent of Dave Mathews. A CD that’s an ideal listen on long drive when you’re in no particular hurry just enjoying the drive (and my wife likes it also).
Danny Pope Presents…: The Acid Teeth E.P. (CD-EP)
Danny Pope is the former drummer for Shane MacGowan and the Popes and also a member of The Men They Couldn’t Hang. “The Acid Teeth E.P.” is Danny on an E-trip. “Acid Teeth” is all (just!!) tight as feck bass and drums in a reggae/dub groove with loads of samples and weird vocals.
“Rub a Dub in da Pub” is the track of most interest to anyone reading “Shite’n’Onions”. It’s a reworking of “B & I Ferry” from Shane’s “Crock of Gold”, just the bass and drums in a reggae groove. Shane on vocals with loads of rasta backing vocals – so cool it should have been sold with shades.
Reviews – November 2001
The Tossers: The First League Out From Land (CDEP)
“The First League Out From Land” is a stopgap EP between CD’s by C-town’s the Tossers. 5 tracks, 1 original, 2 traditional Irish and Dylan and Jerry Lee Lewis covers.The first track is the title track and only original on the EP, it’s classic Tossers, fast Irish-Punk and a fine appetizer for the new CD, “Dicey Riley” was made famous originally by the Dubliners, it’s a tale of a poor old whore “taken to the supp”, and one of those Irish drinking songs that just seems to work so well played by punks, I’m just surprised it’s never been covered before. “Donegal Danny” is another trad. number, an Irish sea shanty reminiscent of “The Irish Rover”. Bob Dylan’s “Seven Curses” is from way back in 1963 and if the Tossers are in anyway staying true to the original then Dylan sounds like he was highly influenced by his original mentors, the Clancy Brothers. The final track is Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Rockin My Life Away”, pure banjo plucking bad ass boogie woogie rock’n’roll.
Rocket: 7 Miles High (CD)
I didn’t think Hoboken, New Jersey was a College town, but after listening to the glorious collegian sounding power pop of Hoboken’s “Rocket” I’m now convinced Hoboken is a college town on par with Amherst or Cambridge, MA. “7 Miles High” is the debut CD from the power pop trio of Matt Azzarto (the Gefkens), guitar; AJ Lambert (Sleepington), bassist and the legendary Murph (Dinosaur Jr. and the Lemonheads) on drums along with almost forth member, producer Don Fleming (Hole, Teenage Fan Club).
Musically Rocket are highly reminiscent of early 90’s Beantown indie darlings the Lemonheads (esp. their “Shame About Ray”, CD), but with a little more oomph in the guitar and skins department plus some great female vocals. So if you’re hankering for some really great power pop, then check this out.
Neck: 2001 Demo
Pull me a Guinness, boys and make sure to put a shamrock in the foam for kitsch value – the band from the Big Smoke are at it again. Listen up as Leeson O’Keefe marches his ragged and ready troops into sure-fire victory. Who better to lead them I ask, than one who, as John noted in a previous review, lived near Rotten, studied under Shane and is blessed with God’s gift to English accents, the Cockney.
The 2001 Demo opens with a grand, bouncing sing-along called “Everyday is St. Patrick’s Day” which reels around with the speed and tempo of Leeson’s boyhood heroes of ’77. It’s held together by the familiar Neck sound that, to me, is instantly recognizable from the rest of the crop, and is becoming their trademark. I particularly like the trad. ‘breakdown’ in the middle. That’s “breakdown” in the spirit of old school hardcore (picture something Springa might’ve wrote if 1) He was Irish 2) He ever got shitty drunk and 3) He could play the whistle or fiddle). I can see it now, step-dancing in the circle pit because this one’s a pit-jig wonder. The plot of the tune seems to relate a tale of Leeson’s pal, Paddy Johnny in the drunk tank. While singing tunes of Ireland at a very high volume, our hero is reprimanded by the guard thusly: “Oi, Paddy – Shut yer gob! It ain’t St. Patrick’s day!” His brilliant, two fingers in-the-air reply names the tune. What a corker.
The cover of “Star of the County Down” is very well done, and, in parts, guitar heavy, heavy, heavy. If old Bon Scott era AC/DC ever did the Pogues, I’d imagine it would come out like this.
Things spill over into Luke Kelly ballad-style on “The Night That The Shamrock Was Drowned.” It tells of the bond between songs from the old country and the feelings we all get when hearing them, (even if it’s “Danny Boy” done by an old Bollocks) it still has that power. It’s done so incredibly well that once you have listened to it, and to the varying styles of the first three songs alone, you’ll see why I put these guys right behind Shane and the Popes as the best in the business today.
The tone remains serious for “Diaspora”, a semi-rocker about the great Irish Diaspora, which reminds me slightly of the boys from my own neck of the woods, the Tossers, which is a good thing.
Things pick right back up for “Blue Sky Over Nenagh” that is sure to get your new Irish Spring Aran sweater mighty stained if you’re anywhere near the stage when it fires up, and you’ll be hard pressed to get that bastard clean as a whistle ever again.
“I Turn my Face to the Four Winds” might well be my favorite cut on the album, and to me, has almost a country-ish backbone to it all. It’s a tale of redemption and loss. Gunfighter O’Keefe squints his eyes in the sun, reflects, and wails like a killer who’s tired of killing…or is he a lover spurned, and who’s situation is of his own doing? “I turn my face to the four winds/once again I stand alone/crucified for my sins/the cross I carry is my own.” Nice touch, that.….very nice. If Marty Robbins or Hank Williams were from Dublin, either would’ve been proud to pen this one.
“Down Where the River Bends” ends the demo like popping pills after a night on the booze – gets the heart back pumping top speed.
All in all, although the 2001 Demo might just be a demo, it’s nothing short of breathtaking. Get in line, boys, cause my beer’s almost gone and Neck are almost on. Shout at the top of your lungs “I’m plastic and I’m proud!” and don’t take your eyes of the band – that grand Goddamn band.
BY Sean Holland
V/A: Punk Shit Volume 1 (CD)
Rich Lard, the main mover and shaker behind “Punk Shit Volume 1” is an Irish punk living in Birmingham, England whose idea for this 40 track compilation was essentially to give exposure to Punk bands on both the Irish and Birmingham scenes. Like most compilations it’s a mixed bag of bands, some good (Nerdlinger, Dogshit Sandwich, Greenland Whalefishers, The Wernt, Bug Central), some bad and some brilliant (Blood or Whiskey, Runnin’ Riot, The Steam Pig) and some just plain average, with a wide range of punk style from the Pogues/Traditional inspired Blood or Whiskey and Greenland Whalefishers to Street Punk, Metallic Hardcore, Oi, Crust, Ska and Acapella (Wat Tyler’s, “Babylon’s Burning”).
I suppose the true test of a good compilation is if it wets the appetite to further check out some of the bands on it and I’ll be certainly checking out more from the Steam Pig, Nerdlinger and a few more.
The Town Pants: Piston Baroque/Liverdance (CD)
Anyone familiar with the Makem Brothers, Tommy Makem’s boys folk group? Irish Folk for the young people, anyone? The Town Pants remind me a hell of a lot of Tommy Makem’s spawn, they are a folksy three piece with acoustic guitar, banjo and tin whistle, but just a lot more spunky and a lot less nerdy (I doubt you’ll ever hear cracks about “hairy backed wife’s” in a Makem Brothers set).
Vancouver’s, The Town Pants are the dual lead vocals of brothers Dave and Duane Kehoe along with Aaron Chapman, a former member of Scottish punk rock gods the Real McKenzie’s. The music is traditional or traditional sounding Irish and Scottish folk in the tradition of the Dubliners, the Clancy’s and the Corries, all played with a punk rock kick up the arse and a wicked sense of humor.
On “Piston Baroque” you’ll find original folkie tales of mutineers (“Monahan the Mutineer”), sheep shaggers, sorry! shearers (“New South Wales”), a victim of Jack the Ripper and relative of Aaron’s (“Dark Annie”) and a humors warning about kitchen hygiene in the ballad of Typhoid Mary (“Hell’s Kitchen”).
The live CD “Liverdance” I’m assured came out before the screensaver of the same name. This is The Town Pants “PC” CD, that is “Pre-Chapman” and it’s all entirely traditional Irish covers. Recorded one July night in front of a rowdy crowd in Vancouver and if this is what they sound like in the middle of the summer, I know where I’m going sucking down my Guinness this coming St. Patricks Day. Somewhere near the front at a Town Pants gig.
Auto Interiors: No Frill Halo Flight (CD)
If the music of Motley Crew sound’s like they actually did spend all their High School days “Smoking in the Boys Room”, then I suspect the collective members of Auto Interiors were the guys hanging out in the chemistry lab, mixing up chemicals that maybe shouldn’t have been mixed, trying to create something explosive. “No Frill Halo Flight” from Boston based 5 piece Auto Interiors is truly an explosive combination of styles that would not usually be found in the normal mix of things (a So-Cal Beach Boys pop feel mixed with Garage, Brit-Pop, a touch of Pink Floyd and some of the best riffing this side of Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi). I suppose if I had to compare them to one “name” band it would be with the very brilliant That Petrol Emotion and TPE’s best album “Manic Pop Thrill”.
So if you have a appetite for excellent trashy guitar based (with farfisa organs!) indie pop with want to be the coolest kid on the block (NME won’t pick up on this for another three months) they you won’t been disappointed.
The Templars: Horns of Hattin (CD)
**Gettin’ Medieval On Your Ass**
The Poor Knights of Acre have returned with a vengeance. With their latest GMM release, “The Horns of Hattin”, the Templars once again prove why they are indeed America’s premiere Oi! band and perhaps the best American Oi! band ever. While some fans growled about their previous release on GMM saying it was too polished and lacked that familiar rough Templars sound (I dug it anyway) the latest opus should please them all – and then some.
Even though S’n’O is primarily focused on Celtic sounds, put aside any notions of those sounds popping up here. If you haven’t heard them, there is nothing remotely Celtic about them. To me, they are a mix of the influences singer/guitarist Carl and the lads normally mention – old Skrewdriver, the Who, the Stones, and a host of the original European Oi! and punk bands. This amalgamation creates a sound that is entirely their own – they are instantly recognizable from the rest of the crop. As I said, not Celtic at all, but sometimes when listening to them, I get a feeling that they could’ve played at English medieval fairs, jousts and the like, if modern conveniences and equipment were available. Or hell, they may have been able to do it with mandolin, harp and drums, who knows. They just kind of sound ‘medieval’ in a strange way. NYC Skinheads in King Arthur’s Court?
The opening burner “Video Age” gets things rollin’, and from there, they never look back. The rock-n-roll influence is heavily felt on this release and mixes in seamlessly with the familiar Templars sound. A song like “Consequences” starts out with a folksy-rock feel and Slade-rock surfaces in “Breakdown.” Check out the guitar solos.
The musicianship on this release is the best I think I’ve ever heard from the boys. Carl’s guitar work especially. The aforementioned “Breakdown” sounds like Chuck Berry if he were a skin, and the quality level is maintained throughout. For my money, Perry is the best bassist in Oi! and Phil keeps the backbone strong and steady, and is an excellent drummer.
Having been around awhile, the lyrical content focuses on such issues as coming up as a skin, traitors in the scene, shit-talkers and skins and punks who, through their actions, ruin things for themselves. Perhaps a message from the Templars: pull our heads out of our asses, get along and enjoy the shows. Don’t spoil things for everyone and prevent future ones. “Lies” put things into perspective like this: “I don’t believe all the rumors and gossip/I’ve got no time for that kind of bullshit….Can’t judge a man by the shoes that he wears/Can’t judge a man by the length of his hair.” Time to put all that petty shit to rest. The disc ends with a ‘hidden’ track, a perfect cover of Skrewdriver’s “Back Street Kids.”
All in all, this is a release I would highly recommend to any fan of the band. If you have not checked them out, do yourself a favor and do so. The Oi! bar has once again been raised by the Templars. Anyone care to step up?
The Men They Couldn’t Hang: Night Of 1000 Candles (CD)
Bonanza Meets Ballykissangel:
A Brief History/Review of The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s “Night of a Thousand Candles”
The year was 1984. The location: London. Word was on the street: Two bands were kick-starting what one day would become an entire genre. One band would go on to become the toast of London, and eventually, the world – the stuff of legend. The other would make a smaller mark, toil in relative obscurity, but in the long run, would still be together making music today. These two bands were the Pogues and the Men They Couldn’t Hang. The connection between the two is, like so many other stories in the rock-n-roll canon, quite incestuous.
Shane MacGowan was the front man and main creative talent behind the Pogues. Shane’s first band, the punk-cum-rockabilly-power-poppish Nipple Erectors (shortened to the Nips) was formed with a lass who played bass called Shanne Bradley. Shanne and Shane formed the creative nucleus of the Nips, and when that band parted ways, Shane and Shanne went on to play in outfits who did a similar, yet at the time, foreign musical style. Add to this punk rock family tree Stefan Cush. Cush was a young London punk who had roadied for the Pogues. When he and Shanne decided to start a band, it was no surprise that the sound turned out like it did. They combined the brash of punk with folk/Celtic sounds and instrumentation just like pal Shane’s band had, but added a heavily American-influenced sound to create a unique vision all their own.
So it is written, so it is done: Shane to the Pogues camp and Cush and Shanne to the Men They Couldn’t Hang. While the Pogues career would flourish and they would become a phenomenon, the Men They Couldn’t Hang would make large waves, only to see the Pogues-level of success denied to them. Critics gushed, they toured with the Pogues, Elvis Costello signed them to his record label “Demon,” they toured with him, and Pogues manager Frank Murray almost chose to manage the MTCH over the Pogues – but Pogues-level mainstream success eluded them. History is a fussy wench, and time tells a different tale for MTCH.
The Men They Couldn’t Hang began their career in 1984, appearing at a number of alternative country music festivals. They followed-up their live performances with the release of a cover version of Eric Bogle’s ‘Green Fields Of France’, which soon became a big hit on the UK Indie charts. Produced by Phil Chevron (more Pogues connections, if you please) it was a smash. Their first album, “Night Of A Thousand Candles”, was released in 1985.
“Night Of A Thousand Candles” is a grand achievement. It almost makes me sad to listen to it because I always wonder what could have become of this group. The main songwriter in the band was lead guitarist and Bouzouki player Paul Simmonds. Using this album alone as an example, one could see the potential in Simmonds lyrical skills. London legends Cush and Phil “Swill” Odgers were the vocalists and each played guitar. Swill also played the tin whistle and mandolin. The aforementioned Shanne Bradley played bass and Swill’s brother Jon rounded things out on the drums. Guests like the ever-incredible Tommy Keane also pop up on the album.
The album shares many similarities with the Pogues early work – it is fiery, folky, punky rock. But, it stands on it’s own – separate and individualized, sounds of a hungry group bent on success, hell or high water. I’d almost say that Flogging Molly (maybe the Tossers as well) are more of a MTCH-sounding band, more-so than the Pogues and I’m not sure they’d agree. But that’s the take I get because of two things: 1) MTCH are much more heavily American sounding in a strange way, seemingly hugely influenced by American roots music like old, hard-ass country. (The album itself ends with a rendition of “Rawhide”) and 2) Flogging Molly’s membership is almost all American, with the notable exception of Dave, (all of the boys in the Tossers are Yanks) so this punk/country-ish sound is bound to pop up honestly in FM/Tossers’ sound. So, it seems like the three would naturally sound a bit alike. But maybe I’m wrong.
On to the album itself. It opens with the brash one-two punch of “The Day After” and “Jack Dandy” both of which are faster and punky, similar to the Pogues early work and to me, sounding like FM. “Johnny Come Home” is the epitome of a Johnny Cash-influenced punk number, very like something Mike Ness might cut today. “A Night To Remember” combines the folk/country sound with a modern English feel for a slower, sadder type number which works very nicely. The cover of Eric Bogle’s “Green Fields of France” was, as stated, a smash, and I can see why. Of all the versions I’ve ever heard (and you know there are many) I think this is my all-time favorite recording of it (this or the Angelic Upstarts version on “The Power Of The Press.”) It got guts and grit and piss and passion – all things which the song needs to succeed. You can hear the sneer and disgust in the vocals, as if saying “a tribute to young, heroic Willie MacBride of the tune, but definitely as waste of a young life, to be sure.” The following tune “Ironmasters” sounds like a group of Union workers if they sang shanties while on the job. I’ve always been a sucker for this type of tune, and it fucking rocks. In many ways, it sounds like a perfect cover for the Dropkick Murphys. It just is their type of tune. Both lyrically: the men fighting for their freedom, the underdog keeping their heads high, “it’s no sin to fight to be free” and musically: the song itself is pure DKM: Big group vocals and power all around. The perfect choice. You reading this Ken? “Scarlett Ribbons” starts out with serene piping (done by Tommy Keane) and is the most heavily Celtic thing on the record.
Other highlights include: the covers of two classics: the anthemic “Hell or England” where that’s the choice offered to him who knocked her up by her dear ol’ Da (a great, great song) and “Donald Where’s Your Troosers?” which, if any of you have heard the Real McKenzies version, is just as fast and rollicking. The group theme-song “The Men They Couldn’t Hang” also rounds things out in high-falootin’ country fashion.
All in all, even though the stories of the Pogues and MTCH are closely related, the bands were good friends (Shane was reportedly so smitten with Shanne that he eventually wrote a song about her) and toured together, it was a different career path that the MTCH took. A different chapter in history awaited them. As one compares the bands today, the only really heavy similarity is they both used Celtic instruments and were folk influenced. Re-listening to the CD, I’m still surprised at how much of it seems as influenced by American folk/country as it was Irish/English folk. Bonanza meets Ballykissangel? The cast of Hee-Haw jamming with Father Ted?
In the end, the Pogues, as we all know, fell apart. (Reformed?) As of today, MTCH (minus Shanne) are re-formed and playing to rave reviews. So, although the two tales of the bands are intertwined, they are not as much musically similar as many would have you believe. True, they are similar, but MTCH are doing their own thing and doing it well. I would highly recommend picking this album/CD up if you can find it, and take a good, long look at what all the fuss was about.
Reviews – December 2001
Filthy Thieving Bastards: A Melody of Retreads and Broken Quills (CD)
I knew this was going to be a classic album from the moment I set eyes on the CD cover, a sketch of three guys boozing in a pub, the main focus being a guy that is (deliberate or not) a doppelganger of the Rev. Ian Paisley, classic.
Last years debut EP “Our Fathers Sent Us” from the Filthy Thieving Bastards was one of the best surprises of the last twelve months. The side project of songwriters John Bonnel and Darius Koski from the legendary street punk band the $winging Utter$ paying tribute to their hero’s and influences (MacGowan, Bragg, Costello, Presley). “A Melody of Retreads and Broken Quills” is the follow up full length and here the Filthy Thieving Bastards have really stepped out into their own in the sheer quality of the song writing and moved way beyond being just a “side project” or “original tribute” to join their influences and hero’s as peers.
Classic American root’s based rock’n’roll with influences from Shane MacGowan, Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello through to Elvis Presley and back beyond to the early Sun Sessions and Hank Williams. In a word brilliant, in three brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Now how about that interview guys!
Greenland Whalefishers: Loboville (CD)
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Greenland Whalefishers from that very Irish place of Bergen, Norway. The Whalefishers first full length CD “The Main Street Sword” certainly impressed me as a solid slab of heavily Pogues influenced Celtic Punk though the production I felt didn’t capture the full power of the sound they were capable of. On “Loboville” the band have fully captured on disk that power and combined it with some really great songs (especially “Hole in our Hearts”, “Loboville” and “July Morning”), melody and playing along with Arvid Grov’s Shane MacGowan sound alike vocals (with only the slightest touch of an accent). Great stuff and highly recommended, especially to those who miss the glory days of the first three Pogues albums.
Ned Ludd: A Zero Ore (CD)
Now this is interesting, Folk-Punk from Italy of all places. Now I’ve heard a lot of European Folk-Punk, usually German Pogues clones with heavy accents (“Zee Last of zee Irish Rover yah”), what makes Ned Ludd different is that they have taken the Pogues basic idea of playing Irish folk music with a punk attitude and applied it to Italian folk music. The music is heavy on the accordion and mandolin with a punk rock kick up the ass from the bass and drums and especially Gianluca Spirito’s tough as nails vocals. England’s Ian Lawther adds in Highland Pipes, Uilleann and Northumbrian Small Pipes giving a slight Celtic edge to the Italian base. The one thing that may be a little off putting to some listeners is that all the songs are in Italian (lyrics are translated in the CD booklet into English and are intelligent Socio-Political criticisms of life in Italy – corruption, the Mafia, unemployment and racism) but this won’t take away from the listen ability and lets face it if your like me then 75% of the time you’ve no idea what the singer is going on about anyway.
A solid original album from possibly Italy’s answer to the Pogues, “Red Wine For Me” anyone?
Reverend Glassey: Black River Falls (CD)
The music of Reverend Glassey and his Wooden Legs is rich in the imagery of an America long gone or maybe that never existed, a place called Black River Falls, a place inhabited by itinerant preachers, snake handlers, medicine show and confidence men. The music can be best described as avant-garde American folk rock, an amalgamation of American, Russian/Jewish folk, dark country, psycho blue grass and gospel tent revival with a trashy garage band production. Often coming off sounding highly reminiscent of Tom Waits (though the Reverend (Adam Beckley) will need to smoke a hell of a lot more cigarettes to perfect the Waits growl) or the evil gypsy music of Portland’s the Dolomites. Best songs and most accessible are “Carnival of Pills”, “Penitentiary Highball” and “Paddywagon Turban”. Defiantly not an easy CD to get into but give it a chance it’s a real winner.
Shane MacGowan and the Popes: Rare Oul’ Stuff (CD)
I’m doing something really unethical with this review, I haven’t actually listened to the CD but that’s the problem – I don’t have to. ‘Rare Oul’ Stuff’ is a quick cash in from Shane’s old label ZTT who never really did too much for his career anyway (anyone remember trying to get a copy of “Crock of Gold” stateside). Basically it’s a mish mash of tracks from “The Snake” and “Crock of Gold” plus a couple of b-sides and EP tracks which most Shane fans will already own or at least have downloaded from Napster.
Track listing is:
1. You’re The One
2. The Song With No Name
3. Nancy Whiskey
4. Roddy McCorley
5. Rock N Roll Paddy
6. Christmas Lullaby
7. Danny Boy
8. Minstrel Boy
9. Rake At The Gates Of Hell
11. Donegal Express
12. Ceildh Cowboy
13. Paddy Rolling Stone
14. Paddy Public Enemy 1
15. Back In The County Hell
16. The Snake With Eyes Of Garnet
17. Cracklin Rosie
19. Spanish Lady
20. Come To The Bower
21. St John Of Gods
Nothing particularly rare or even oul’ about this and only recommended to the must have everything fan (the cover at least looks pretty neat).
The Ruffians: Naked & Famous (CDEP)
The Ruffians are a young Celtic Rock band from the NY area, who’ve been giging in and around the Tri State area since ’98, regulars at Black 47’s NYC gigs should be well familiar with them.
The basis of the band is brothers Sean (Guitar, Vocals, Bodhran) and Dan Griffin (Bass), Jerome Morris (Drums, Percussion) and Charles Butler (Banjo) assisted by guest traditional players (Uileann Pipes, Fiddle, Button Accordion and Tin Whistle) to fill out the trad. Sound.
“Naked & Famous” is a six-track (well five and a half really) EP début. The first couple of tracks sound like they are live favorite’s (especially “More To Life”, a tale of Saturday night drinking and Sunday morning Catholicism) but they didn’t quite make that jump to CD as well as they could have. Things start getting interesting on the third track “Drunk Again”, with it’s Brit Pop crossed with Irish sound, imagine the Pogues kidnapping Morrissey, getting him real drunk and making him sing for them. “The Banker” is the best original, a slow powerful one with some really great uileann pipes. “All The Girls”, the half-track and introduction for “Never Will Marry” is similar to Flogging Molly’s “Grace Of God Go I” (with vocals almost as powerful as Mr. King’s). The final track is “Never Will Marry” an American/Irish folk standard but this version is a riff driven fuckin rocker with uileann pipes replacing the guitar solo, Linda Ronstadt never played it like this – excellent.
A good young band with plenty of potential, give’em a chance.
Mappari: High Enough to Notice (CD)
While not really falling into the Celtic-Rock bucket that I tend to feature in Shite’n’Onions or anyway close for that matter is the Boston based Long Island transplants Mappari (no they aren’t named after an Italian restaurant – the name is derived from a geographical term meaning “where sound never dies”).
Mappari play some great 70’s influenced rock with all the best parts of that decade – huge power chords, great vocal harmonies with catchy hooks all crafted into great four minute rock songs while still sounding fresh and relevant – and ignoring the worst of the decade (the self-indulgence, flares and platform boots).
“High Enough to Notice” was produced by Rob Stephens who has previously worked with John Lennon and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and if that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.