Kirt McLeod/Seven Nations: A Celtic Rock Tribute to the Cure
Definitely a strange one here. The Cure and Celtic rock is not something I would ever think would go together but Celtic Rockers, Seven Nations have pulled together a 10 track tribute covering some of The Cure’s best know tracks (“Boys Don’t Cry”, “Love Cats”, “Why Can’t I Be you” etc.) – now to be honest while The Cure were huge in my school back in the day, I never liked them – my tastes then were more along the lines of Megadeth and Judas Priest. I will admit The Cure wrote some very fine songs. So what is a Celtic Rock tribute like? Well, very much true to the sound of The Cure, guitars a bit louder then the jingly pop sound of old and layered on top is a Celtic wall of sound – Bagpipes, Fiddles, flutes and all. Kirt McLeod does Robert Smith very well (though occasionally hitting some annoying falsetto territory). If you remember The Cure or looking for some great songs given a Celtic twist check this oooot.
Bread & Roses: Deep River Day
Deep River Day is the first full-length release from Boston’s own “orchestra” folk punksters Bread & Roses (out on the excellent Fistolo Records). I would describe Bread & Roses as old school Americana – country and bluegrass played with a punk spirit and a huge nod to Woodie Guthrie (all on acoustic instruments of course – mandolin, upright bass, banjo, fiddle). The cover of the traditional “Babylon is Fallen (To Rise No More)” is outstanding. See’em at a soup kitchen near you, soon.
Fiddlers Green: Drive Me Mad!
Fiddlers Green are a long running (since 1990) self described Irish-speedfolk band from Germany. ‘Drive Me Mad!’ their 12th full length release, featuring an incredible 20 tracks – both original and traditional standards – all squashed onto one disk. The sound occupies a space on the scale somewhere between The Pogues and Flogging Molly with a clear love of The Dubliners. Lots of fun and value for money.
The Vandon Arms: Losers and Boozers
While digging through iTunes one day, (I love how iTunes lets me sample every song before committing to a purchase,) avoiding work, linking from one “sounds like,” or “also purchased” to another, I found the six-song EP, “Losers and Boozers”, by The Vandon Arms.
The Vandon Arms is a four piece band from Des Moines, Iowa, comprised of a bass, guitar, drums, and a mandolin. That’s it. No fiddle, pipes, or even a decent whistle to be found. So at first I was dubious. Don’t get me wrong. I love the mandolin, I even own and occasionally torture the missus with one of several every now and again!
But was a single mando enough “folk” for a good folk-punk band? Maybe, but The Vandon Arms aren’t just a good folk-punk band, they are a great one! A minute into track one, and I was reminded that instruments do not make the band. I forgot my initial apprehensions and began really getting into these guys.
The thing I first noticed about TVA was how tight and professional they sounded. These guys came together as solid as any band at the height of their career, and possess a sound somewhere between Dropkick Murphys, The Tossers and Saint Bushmills Choir, with some of the best elements of each.
The EP opener was the traditional foot-stomper, “Muirsheen Durkin”. Executed with the appropriate enthusiasm, track 1 shows off the strength of the mandolin/electric guitar combo and the band’s great use of chorus.
“Losers and Boozers” is an introspective, if unrepentant, self analysis delivered with tempo changes swinging from a last-call, barfly lament to a rowdy, fist-pumping chant that must whip a live audience into a 12-step-dropouts’ frenzy. This one is probably my favorite track off this EP.
Track 3 is the ubiquitous “Whiskey in the Jar,” which sits precariously on the line between a respectfully traditional rendition and a high-speed, punked-out anthem. A very well done version that had me wondering how a voice so relaxed could sound so effortless moving along with a song sung so quickly.
The “Legend of Johnny Grey” relates a folk hero-style tale of rebelling against oppression and shows how TVA use the mandolin as a perfect bridge between the guitar and vocals.
“Brothers in Arms” is a Dropkicks-esque mug-swinger about camaraderie, I assume of the band members, starting with a glass-clinking sing-along that morphs into an upbeat, happy tune that somehow both sounds sincere and avoids sounding sappy.
Closing track “The Journey” is a drums-free, acoustic number that comes across as heartfelt and thoughtful but maintains a really nice pace.
Suffice to say, I was very happy to find this EP on iTunes. If this is a hint at some of the new blood in the Celtic Folk-Punk Genre, than the future is looking good.
Jack Flash: Take Notice
Continuously scouring the Internet to find new and unfamiliar music, I recently ran across and subsequently downloaded some songs from the MySpace page for the Australian bush band, Jack Flash. Very shortly later, I knew I wanted to order and write a review of their EP, ‘Take Notice’.
As I listened to it, (many times now,) I was overcome by the urge to classify and/or categorize their sound, as I found it different yet somewhat familiar. The first familiarity I recognized was the prickly, sharp, staccato sound that reminded me of certain other Australian folk-punk bands like Mutiny and Roaring Jack. This was achieved in part by some hyperactive, short-stroked fiddle and a percussive mandolin at the front of the mix.
On top of these were vocals that perch on that narrow spectrum between Roaring Jack’s Alistair Hulett and Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett, further defining the parameters the “Aussie sound” classification that my mind was developing.
And, of course, the songs themselves reinforced this, with lyrics invoking social awareness, such as the environmentally conscious, kick-ass, title track; containing tales of local significance, such as the track ‘The Legend of Stu;’ and even a blistering version of the traditional ‘Lachlan Tigers.’
The six-piece Jack Flash, made of electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, fiddle, mandolin and even an occasional harmonica, combine these above mentioned elements to carve a niche, (in my head, anyways,) in Celtic folk-punk’s smaller sub-genre, (sub-sub-genre?) of Australian folk-punk. In doing so, the band creates a sound that stands out from the that of the majority of the pack.
One last thing… At the time of this writing, four of these six songs are available to hear on the bands MySpace page, including an acoustic, live version of the title track, ‘Take Notice.’ But for my money, the cleaned-up, plugged-in, spit-shined, mixed and balanced studio version of this song on the EP was worth the price of the disc alone, not just because I now have two different versions of the song, but because when this thing shifts into gear and burns on all cylinders, it really gets the blood to boilin.’
Check these guys out!
Review by Christopher Toler, THE Blathering Gommel
Dicey Riley: TPA
Everyone has their local Irish rock band in their area that they would go see every week down at the pub to drink and dance with. Everyone also has their favorite bang around sweater that they wear when they are hung over sitting around the house wishing your head would stop pounding the songs you sang the night before. Just as you wouldn’t present your beat up old sweater down the runway of a fashion show, you should’nt really try and make the local band a star.
This band based in Northampton MA has always had their problems, way too much drinking, screwing up lyrics, falling off beat and looking all out of sorts during their sets, but enough about the fans in the audience we are here to review their CD TPA, or Ten Penny Ale. Dicey Riley has been around for years in the club scene in Western Mass and this is their second real effort in recording. Unfortunately for all of us it is rocked out Trad songs. These are fun songs while you’re drinking in a bar like O’ Driscoll’s in Wilbraham, however stuck in rush hour trying to get out town, the last thing you wanna hear is Mike trying to belt out Cockles and Mossels.
Why would any band commit musical suicide like this? Free studio time, this was a commissioned CD for The Olde Burnside Brewery in east Hartford CT. As I remember it, Bob the owner was interested in more traditional music than originals. So boys and girls this is what you get when you sell out. Lasers do nothing to compliment this bands talents, in fact I believe they sound so much better in person that this CD should be relegated to the plastic paddy pile, go find their “No Pardon from the Pope” EP. At least that contained more originals, although the production quality was not as good as what was on this one.
I am sorry Dicey faithful this CD is their best sounding CD technically, however I need like twelve beers to listen to this thing and even then I still will be wanting for something more. Everyone plays well and there is almost enough bagpipes for me, but it is not a good representative CD to the bands talents and live acts. It was done for one reason and one reason only, beer promotions. Maybe next time guys.
Dropkick Murphys: The Meanest of Times (Sean Holland review)
Dropkick Murphys loom so large over the current Irish Punk/Celtic scene that it’s hard to give an objective opinion about their new album. Their importance cannot be understated. Indeed Dropkick Murphys are a major reason why many bands on this website exist; in fact, it’s a primary reason why the website itself exists.
Added to this somewhat grandiose opening statement is the fact that, while the band has been huge in it’s beloved Boston for years, recent national exposure via “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” in Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award winning film The Departed is now making them huge nationwide. If one looks at record sales, one can determine that there exists something of an event surrounding this latest offering. However, when a genre-defining band releases a new album in this sort of Boston/Celtic Zeitgeist, there also exists a weird type of conundrum; there will be longtime fans who offer nothing but support, there will be detractors that cry “sell-outs”, there will be an embarrassing contingent of fleeting fans in Bruins jerseys who hop aboard all the latest trends, and then there will just be the regular Joe Bud Light who likes the band for whatever reason, with however much fervor they so choose. And that’s simply the way of the music fan. And somewhere in the middle lies the truth about this record.
American Heritage defines “evolution” as 1. A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form. 2. The process of developing. Dropkick Murphys have, for better or worse, been evolutionary since their inception. It took me a second to realize this, but unless you are Cock Sparrer or AC/DC, the natural process is to evolve, if only in a small way, to satisfy themselves as artists, and to make the type of music they have the technical chops to make. Bands evolve. This is nothing new, but rather a well-worn cliché with the rock’n’roll canon.
In truth, bassist Ken Casey has said that the band now is pretty much how he envisioned it from the beginning, he simply didn’t have the resources to put together all of the instrumentation he wanted, in 1996 in the fledgling Boston punk/oi! scene. Fair enough. And while I’m often times nostalgic for the Do or Die 4 piece that played basement shows in Chicago, I respect this band, and put them on s pedestal above many classic oi!/punk bands who also evolved. Why? Because unlike groups like your SSD’s or Stiff Little Fingers (to use two of DKM’s longtime influences) this band’s evolution did not include making music that I’d consider far less than stellar.
The results of The Meanest of Times? I’ve had the chance to listen to the album many times over, and I can safely say that it’s my favorite Dropkick Murphys record since Sing Loud, Sing Proud. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed each post-Sing Loud album on it’s own merits, and I feel they all have their strong suits, but I think The Meanest of Times is the most solid of the three. The most cohesive and complete.
The album kicks off with one of my favorite tracks, Famous For Nothing, which details the woes, but also the good times, of growing up in Catholic schools. The track has a nice driving rock’n’roll punch to it, and a catchy-as-hell pre-chorus and chorus.
From here, the album runs the gamut of styles that have influenced Dropkick Murphys since day one: punk, Irish, hardcore, traditional and others in-between.
One of the things that really drags down modern day oi!/streetpunk is badly clichéd lyrics. One only needs to look at something like The State of Massachusetts to see that lyrics need not always be about the same tired barroom crap. Probably the most poignant on the record, dealing with drug problems, and the reality a lot of kids grow/grew up with, it really does show how the band have matured.
To be honest, a few of the past choices of traditionals have left me a bit under whelmed, but the inclusion of Flannigan’s Ball (a reworking of an old Irish tune Lannigan’s Ball) works as well as any they’ve ever done. Why? Something about the song seems dark to me, and hearing Dubliner Ronnie Drew’s vocals, mixed with Pogues whistler Spider Stacey, mixed with Ken and Al really works. Ronnie Drew has an amazing voice, and hearing him speed it up for this tune was really something, and for lack of a better word, “cool.”
Shattered is a nice, simple, straight-ahead hardcore offering, sans any Irish flavor, that shows the Dropkick Murphys have lost none of their Boston Hardcore roots, and showcases drummer Matt Kelly at his best. The inclusion of such songs is a treat for me, and reminds me of the old days. I, for one, appreciate songs on the album like this one and I’ll Begin Again the break away from the full-on Irish flavor that the majority possesses.
An example of how the full-on Irish flavor works amazingly is Rude Awakenings, which sounds like it could well be a hundred’s years old Irish tune. It truly sounds like something The Dubliners could have recorded. The banjo playing is outstanding, the pipes compliment the tune to a tee, and the age-old subject matter of getting drunk, and getting into misadventures with the opposite sex, is a can’t miss – passed down from generations of drunken, horny Micks to Ken Casey’s pen.
The album closes on a universal theme for a band that has always remained loyal to it’s city, it’s friends and it’s family. Never Forget, singing the virtues of such loyalties, succinctly wraps up an album that, indeed, seems to preach these very virtues from start to finish.
Certainly this band has evolved, but the core beliefs that started the band remain intact, and the music never suffers. The band may grow, and the fan base as well (and I can’t think of a more deserving group of folks for this to happen to) but the values remain the same. To reiterate, “evolution: A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.”
More complex. And better.
Dropkick Murphys: The Meanest of Times
A quick flick through “D” in my CD rack tells me that this is the Dropkick Murphy’s sixth album release (not including collections, live albums, singles/EPs etc.) and I have to say it’s a pretty darn good one – running at warp speed just about from start to finish. It sounds to me like they’ve taken the experimentation of “Blackout” and “Warrior’s Code” and applied it to the energy of “Sing Loud Sing Proud” and just done what the Murphy’s do best – create cracking good rock n’ roll songs with enough Celtic flavor that you know its there, but only enough that’s allowable in the Dropkick Murphy’s world of slam-it-down-your throat working class hymns.
By the way, I’m kidding about having a “D” section in my CD rack, I’m nowhere near that organized, but my Dropkick Murphy’s collection is all together and safely on one of the top shelves (out of reach of my baby daughter), so it was easy to count for the purposes of this review. Only special bands like this one get a place on the top shelves where they avoid the very real dangers of being chewed and soaked in dribble on a daily basis.
The album launches with the sound of a school bell and playground noises before cranking into “Famous for Nothing”, a song about the (mis)adventures of youth. The song is a real solid example of the Murphy’s with tight, heavy rhythm and a dirty guitar over the top that almost has a bit of a “surf” sound to it before adding in first a mandolin and then pipes as it builds into a breakneck, anthemic crescendo.
Next up is a number about lost loved ones called “God Willing” which, if anything, increases the pace of the opening track. It really cranks through and has a killer, catchy chorus.
“The State of Massachusetts” has some awesome banjo throughout it, and the song overall is real quality and one of my favorites after the first couple of listens. This despite the rather depressing subject of family neglect / child abuse and the vicious circle this introduces.
A couple of straight-ahead punk songs come up next in the form of “Tomorrow’s Industry” and “Echo’s on ‘A’ Street”, covering a working-class perspective on hard times and the support of family respectively.
“Vices and Virtues” is a fast-paced anthem about 4 dead brothers and the various ways they managed to die too young. Catch-cry of “Whiskey, war, suicide and guns”.
“Surrender” has some nice guitar work and is followed up by a re-working of Lannigan’s Ball with some new Boston-esque lyrics and guest appearances from The Pogues’ Spider Stacy and The Dubliner’s Ronnie Drew. Ronnie Drew’s voice is just gold – sets the song off brilliantly. I read a quote somewhere once, but buggared if I can find it now, that described Ronnie Drew’s voice as being able to “take the head off a pint of Guinness at 10 paces” or something to that effect and it’s spot on – Its so deep and rough and sends a shiver down your spine. Magic stuff…and great arrangement of the song overall I reckon with the mix of singers working well (almost a bit like the Murphy’s legendary version of Rocky Road to Dublin but with Spider and Ronnie adding their bits).
“I’ll Begin Again” is a flat-out punk track about prison life and as the CD booklet says “A mother’s love for a son…”
“Fairmount Hill” is another re-take of a traditional tune, and in this case “Spancill Hill” gets a pretty decent Murphy’s working over. It’s the only slower tune on the album. “Loyal to No One” comes after this which rekindles the album’s pace and paints a picture of a stubborn, self-reliant asshole who will suffer a lonely death. Some cheeky little banjo in the middle adds another element to the song. “Shattered” comes after this one blasting the bullshit out of every aspect of society, and next is “Rude Awakenings”, a rather comical view of the morning-after a one night stand with disappointment all around.
The third traditional song is up next, “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya”, a great version of the anti-war song accurately portraying the shell of a person that returns from such unfortunate adventures. And the album closes out with “Never Forget” which features Scruffy Wallace’s pipes in their most prominent position (although they are used in a complementary role very well throughout the album). The track is about love and family values and despite the uplifting pipes I found it a little bit of a weak ending to an otherwise really solid album.
Overall an album that sees the Murphy’s focusing back on their roots a bit more and it works really well. Existing fans will love it and if you’re new to the Murphy’s this is definitely a good listen, however if you prefer the folk end of the folk-punk genre “Blackout” would be a better bet.
Filthy Thieving Bastards: I’m a Son of a Gun
So, how good is it when the Bastards put out a new release? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about…and of more immediate concern to me – how the hell do you even begin to review the indescribable brilliance that is the Filthy Thieving’ Bastards? Well let’s see…
Filthy Thieving’ Bastards began as a Swingin’ Utters side-project almost 10 years ago, which by all measures of that term make it a little more than a side-project methinks. They combine incredibly cheery and cheeky melodies with punk attitude (and sometimes sound), over the top of whatever country/folk/bluegrass type of sounds takes their fancy for that particular track and then wrap the whole thing up in an overall rockabilly type of…I dunno…general aural pleasure. And they do all of that FAR KING WELL. You just cannae but enjoy it!
I’ve been listening to the Bastards for a couple of years I guess, so I’m a relative newbie to it all but I will say this, the initial EP and 2 follow-up albums kick some serious arse, so you should go get them if you don’t own them already. I can categorically state that if you aren’t a fan right now it’s either because you haven’t heard them or you are a tasteless d*ckhead.
As for my thoughts on “I’m a Son of a Gun” released March 2007…well I have to start with a statement of admiration. What would I do if I had what was already a perfect punk/folk/country band that I it was going to be extremely tough to improve on? I’d go get one of the Pogues to come and guest-star on it, and this is precisely the case on the album’s opener – Phony Drunken Poet which features Spider Stacy on whistle. It’s a great tune with a catchy chorus, “Lend me this month’s rent, My Dad just bought a round, You’ll get your money just before I leave this town…” Great example of the Bastards at their finest, very clever little song, slightly understated but at the same time rocks out just the right amount.
Overall the album is a really solid effort with a bunch of standout tracks over and above the opener mentioned above. Will appeal to those who are already a fan, and would be a reasonable introduction to any newcomers, although I’d probably recommend “My Pappy Was a Pistol” or “A Melody or Retreads and Broken Quills” over this one to a total newbie. A quick whip-through of the highlights as follows:
When the Wallflowers Wilt – great little guitar melody on this one, a track about being upbeat about being down and out. Catchy chorus again.
Dusty Roads –dirty little country guitar sound on this one, I absolutely dig it when the Bastards do country in their unique, gruff style. Great lyrics with lines like: “Sometimes it seems I’m on some sadistic crusade just to get wasted, ripped off, tired and underpaid”. Also uses a great phrase that could be used to describe the band themselves: “hardcore troubadours”
Santa Maria – a slightly more straight ahead song with a touch of grungy surf guitar.
Bring Me Back – This one just has to make you smile with a happy-go-lucky bass line, dirty guitar melody following the vocals and swift acoustic rhythm guitar. “Bring me back to the happy times…”
Down Every Day – A modern sea shanty, dark enough, and so well done.
Dumb Dead Goats – This is probably my second favourite off the album after the opener. It got me on the first listen – great chorus: “Hey, is anybody even listening? Cuz Dixie ain’t the only thing I’m whistling’”. And I love the line: “The high horse you rode on in is as stubborn as a mule”. Upbeat, buoyant track.
When We Were Kids – This is probably the heaviest song on the album, and probably wouldn’t be too far away from home if it were found on an Utter$ album. Great track.
Last of the Big Spenders – understated track to finish the album out, good feel to it. Good political messages in it too…I can relate to the “I’m the last of the big spenders with money from a lender” – that’s for sure. Beaut little slide guitar action here too.
So in closing, another fine instalment of Filthy Thieving’ Bastards gems…they’ve lost nothing with time! Still putting the spunk into punk, giving folk a stoke, and driving the c*nt back into country music, choice! Gotta love these hardcore troubadours.
Review: Alex Dean
McDermotts 2 Hours: Goodbye To The Madhouse
I’ll make no bones about it, McDermotts 2 Hours are easily one of my favorite bands on the whole Celtic/folk/Rock scene – Why? Great songs, great playing and amazing lyrics in the best story telling tradition. “Goodbye To The Madhouse” is the McDermotts 4th release since the band reformed in 2000 and the 1st without The Levellers branding on the CD cover – though various Levellers are still very much involved and it’s out on “Otf recording”, The Levellers own label – if that’s not an endorsement I don’t know what is. “Goodbye…”, certainly doesn’t disappoint and reaches all my expectations and those were set way high. Again, the songs are great, the playing and production masterful and they lyrics powerful and tragic. Highlights – all 11 tracks, but especially Molloy, Crusaders, The true story of Eugene McQuaid
New Model Army: High
New Model Army is one of the great bands of post-punk England – punk, gothic, metal and folk all rolled into one. 27 years on the go and 18 years on from the absolute classic “Thunder And Consolation”. Amazingly NMA are as fresh, powerful and original sounding today on “HIGH” as they were to my ear in 1989 when I picked up T&C (this is making me fee old). I read somewhere that “HIGH” was described as NMAs best release since T&C and while I can’t say for sure as T&C was the last NMA album I heard, “HIGH” is a bloody great follow-up.
The BibleCodeSundays: Boots or No Boots
Is this the album of the year? Big call to be making in August I know…but its gotta be a contender!!!
The BibleCodeSundays’ flute/accordion/fiddle sound is so warm it makes you want to curl up in front of it with a glass of red wine and a naked woman. Its like The Chieftains with a rocket up their arse or something…I don’t know but there’s something about listening to these guys that makes me think of a nice swallow of whiskey, just after the burning sensation has passed and you have that beautiful warm, soft buzz and a big smile on your face.
Boots or No Boots has come out barely a year after 2006’s stunner: Ghosts of Our Past, and I think its better. It has a few tracks with a bit more of an edge to them which pushes it up a few notches further in my ratings. The playing, arrangement and song-writing is once again superb in every way. The vocals are stand-out too, slightly under-stated, but rough enough to add the edge that this music needs.
The album opener, and one of the best tracks on it for sure, is Maybe It’s Because I’m an Irish Londoner. Celebrating the ex-pat feeling of pride and belonging, and this London/Irish combination has a lot to answer for. Shane MacGowan has been quoted numerous times as saying it was this that led to The Pogues sound – it needed Irish music to be taken abroad and re-invented in exile to take it to a new frontier. Irish Londoner is an up-tempo, gutsy song that you can’t but enjoy.
I’ve made it obvious already how much I like this album, so here is a quick run-through of some of the other real highlights:
Mayo Moon – a lost love / leaving song with a sweet, sad melody. Brings a tear to my eye each time I listen to it. A beautiful song in the traditional balladic style.
Lash in the USA – Drink’n’Roll at its finest: “I can’t see straight trying to play, we’re going on the lash in the USA…” Its just a dam fine, fast drinking song.
Cinderella Man – Heart-felt rendition of the story of Jim Braddock. A story better told in a few minutes of song than a few hours of on-screen Russell Crowe methinks, this track is a real stand-out. Lyrics are crisp, melody matches perfectly the Cinderella story, the struggle and rising from the ashes.
Paddy Devil – another drinking song, this one pointing out that little Lucifer who always suggests one more…this track is complete with evil devil laugh and an absolutely stand-out close with King of the Fairies harder and faster than I’ve ever heard it before – I tell ya, these guys know how to play!
Kids From the City of Nowhere – Building on the album opener, this song outlines the over-looked contribution of the Irish ex-pats to the building of London. Great merger of sad-lyrics with up-beat music including heart-soaring horns.
The Green & Red of Harrow – I just like this song…great tune. One of the edgier ones I mentioned earlier. Song is inspired by the County Mayo ex-pats living in Harrow.
Welcome to Cricklewood – a true celebration of multiculturalism! I loved this song from the first listen, a mid-tempo track with a happy-go-lucky feel, corny opening voice-over and a melodic chorus tinged with sadness. The horns combo-ed up with the whistle really does it for me in this one.
The album closes with a heart-wrenching, melancholic soliloquy over a piano backdrop. According to the band’s website, it was written and spoken by vocalist Ronan’s father Ross: a poem half written in the 50s, completed in the 90s. Stranger in My Land is an appropriate close to a beautiful, emotional, stand-up-and-rock-out album delivered in the way only a class-act Paddy Punk band can.
Simply put, The BibleCodeSundays are masters of their trade.
The Mahones: Irish Punk Collection
The Mahones: Irish Punk Collection For existing Mahones fans the “Irish Punk Collection” contains every single bloody elusive Mahones track you’ve been trying to get your hands on, but some bastard keeps out bidding you on eBay or you don’t feel justified paying $30.00 for an import through Amazon when all they are doing is mailing a bloody CD down from Canada.
Haven’t heard The Mahones? This is the perfect opportunity to get your hands on 20 tracks (18 really, they snuck in 2 ballads) of the band at their loudest most rockin. Like Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys? Need another fix? You won’t go wrong with The Mahones. They are the musical equivalent of a punch in the face on St. Patrick’s Day from the opening smack to the head of “Queen & Tequila” to the final kick in the balls of “Drunken Lazy Bastard (Live)”. The Mahones will sonically beat the shit out of you.
Three Day Threshold: Against the Grain
“Against The Grain” is TDT’s 3rd full length release and being well familiar with all 3 I can easily say ATG is clearly their best and most ‘mature’ release to date and when I say ‘mature’ I don’t mean it in a bad way (though I usually do). Long time fans needn’t despair with this new found maturity either ‘cos ATG is still loaded with high speedy trashy country meets Irish but it’s really went things slow down that the music picks up – think if Johnny Cash had live long enough to make America VI – yeah that good.
Ceann: Rant, Rave, Lose Pants
“Yankee-Irish drinking music” says the CD cover proudly and after a good few solid listens, who am I to disagree. Pittsburgh’s Ceann are a contemporary Irish-America folk rock group playing drinking music for the drinking class (not sure who I stole that description from), The Clancy Brother meets The Beach Boys or even The Monkeys with a comical twist to their lyrics. Honestly, if you haven’t broken a smile by the end of the 15 tracks on “Rant, Rave, Lose Pants” your dead (and if your not, then have a friggin drink and lighten up). Outstanding track “Last one standing” pretty much sums these guys up, “Irish, American and proud”.
Murder the Stout: Imported
Texas based Murder the Stout play are a self described “Progressive Celtic Music” group comprised of a Scott, an Irish Man and 3 Texans with “Imported” being their debut release of twenty traditional and contemporary Celtic standards squished into thirteen tracks. I’d describe MTS as a high-energy, straight ahead trad. group, like the Clancy Brothers on Redbull.
Probably the best endorsement I can give for “Imported” is that when I had a Paddy’s Day party for the family this year, “Imported” was heavily played – the perfect Paddy’s Day CD when you don’t want to scare the very old or very young yet want to be entertained yourself.
Icewagon Flu: The Great American Something
In the whole Irish rock scene in the US, IWF are totally on a planet of one. I think someone; somewhere likened them to They Might Be Giants meets Hothouse Flowers – sort of lad back, somewhat funky alt-rock with a touch of Irish. “The Great American Something” builds on the bands previous 2 full lengths and I would say easily their strongest release. Check out “Talk to Me”, it’s a rock radio hit if ever I heard one – that’s if radio ever had the balls to play it.
The Larkin Brigade: Paddy Keys for Mayor
Rightso…2 things I have to say before I even start trying to review this album, and these are the first 2 things that struck me within 30 seconds of getting the package out of the mailbox, opened on the kitchen bench and chucking the CD on the stereo…
1) Reading through the song titles on the back of the cover, as sure as Shane MacGowan is the godfather of our beloved paddy punk, “We’re all Wicked Liquored Up at the Upscale Downtown Irish Pub” is the coolest name for a song I have ever heard
2) They have a piano in their line-up. This is rather unique for this style of music and as soon as the first notes hit my ears I was whisked away to a magical, faraway place in my early childhood (about ages 3-7) because at this time my parents exposed me to exclusively classical music (which I was not fond of) AND the following 4 albums (all of which I was very fond of): Billy Joel – The Stranger, Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Steeleye Span – some collection, who knows what and 5 Hand Reel – For A’ That. And bizarrely enough, The Larkin Brigade sound like a mix of all 4 of those artists. Go figure???
OK – sorry about that, but I felt compelled to share…now back to the topic at hand given that this is an album review, not a “My Mum didn’t hug me enough” psychiatry session for me.
Paddy Keys for Mayor is the first album release for The Larkin Brigade – a 4-piece from Boston playing fast-paced Celtic-infused music, with a punk-ish feel. Drums, bass, violin and piano make for a very unique sound that needs to be heard to be properly appreciated. The album is well upbeat, kicking you out of your chair and cocking your ears to catch the next funky piano lick, or violin trill over the top of a driving rhythm section. I reckon these guys would do one solid live show that couldn’t leave you with anything but a big smile on your face.
The first track, “Tim Phoolan and the Worst Campaign for City Council Ever” is a great intro to the album. It hits you straight away with what The Larkin Brigade are all about – cymbal-heavy percussion, beefy bass, violin-melody with a crazy piano running all over the place. Pat’s vocals are thick-sounding, yet light-hearted and engaging.
“Banana Republic” and “Dot Day” follow this up nicely with a similar feel to Tim Phoolan. Some sweet work on the harmonica in Banana adds a nice touch. Dot has a catchy melody and great toe-tapping rhythm – very clever little song.
“Planxty John L.” incorporates some great timing changes that deliver a punch as good as the Irish-American boxer who is the subject of the song.
“This is a Rebel Cry” and “Mission Thrill” are a couple of fun tracks complete with drinking and ninja turtle references. The latter has a great bridge section that could have come from traditional session in any decent Irish pub the world over.
“Sean South From Garryowen” shares the same tune as Roddy McCorley and cranks up the temperature with some wicked bagpipes giving you that extra shot of adrenaline only a good ol’ rebel song can deliver.
“The Tinker” has some great changes of tempo infused with a clever violin riff and finishes with a soaring fiddle solo. Following this is a sweet little instrumental: “Tabhair Dom Do Lamh” and then we’re transported straight into a noisy piano bar for a bit of good ol’ rag time jamming.
“We’re All Wicked Liquored Up at the Upscale Downtown Irish Pub” as I already noted could never go wrong for me and it is a great song turning the piano bar into an Irish pub full of drunken Powers-infused punters wrecking the joint.
The album closes out with “The Banshee Went to Outer Space”, another solid track with some crazy fast lyrics, punk-beats and vocals, a bit of electronic madness chucked in for good measure and all with the goods on the rhythm and pounding piano this album delivers in spades.
So this album really gives you something unique. Not for the die-hard punk perhaps, but to anyone who likes their music with a cheeky sense of humour that isn’t taking itself too seriously, who can handle their rhythm loud and proud and void of guitar, who can dig a violin and piano being used as assault rifles on the ears, and can take their whiskey straight or in a tall glass of coke – this comes with an A-grade recommendation from this reviewer. Slainte!
Is the word masterpiece too much?
I have been listening to Amadan for roughly 6-7 years now. In those 6-7 years, I have seen Amadan progress from a traditional cover band into something way beyond this genre we call Celt-Punk, and I must say, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Not that there’s anything wrong with hearing random traditional songs done by numerous folk-punk bands, but it was time to push it a bit further, and in my opinion, Amadan’s “Pacifica” has done just that.
At a recent footy match, I ran into Eric Tonsfeldt (Songwriter/Guitarist/Vocalist). He told me Amadan had an album release party the next night in Eugene, Oregon and invited me to go. (I obviously was in on that road trip!) Just so you know, Eugene is about 100 miles away, and the drive provides a perfect opportunity to listen to a new album or two. So there I was, spontaneously reviewing an album as the principal songwriter provided details about the album as we drove toward a record release party. (That has to be a S’n’O first! )
Upon first listen, the music is beyond any comparison. Nothing, and I mean nothing else sounds like their new album. If you have heard “Hellbent”, then you may be on the right track, but you’re still not even close. As I have previously mentioned, “Pacifica” is not a folk-punk album, it’s way beyond that.
Considering the vast amount of musical space “Pacifica” covers. I will try to provide a track by track itinerary. We start out with “The Old North End” It’s a rockin’ little ode to Portland’s seedy Old Town. Google Shanghai tunnels for a more detailed account, after a few spins, you’ll be singing right along.
With “Anchor Tattoo” it gets even faster, and in a nutshell could almost describe the sound of the band, (Well almost.) If your foot isn’t tapping to this little ditty, you should seek medical attention.
“Not Your Man” is more or less the audio form of bible-thumping repellent. Fantastic lyrics, & amazing musicianship. We reflect on certain people of our past In “Used To Know” and speaking of people from our past, you need to take a listen to the next track, “Serenity” (Quite possibly, my favorite track on the album.)
The 1-2-3 punch of “Pishi”, “Coming Home” & “Mescaline” will simply blow you out of the water. This manic medley starts out as an instrumental, peaks in the middle, and suddenly breaks down back to level ground. If you’re looking for some orchestrated mayhem check out this trifecta. Up next, it’s the old standard “The Leaving Of Liverpool” done Amadan style. This song originally appeared on their first album/demo “Sons Of Liberty” but this version is better, way better!
Up next is “Damn This!” Someone sounds a little cynical and needs another beer… Speaking of good times, the next track is “Devil In The Kitchen” and if you thought Ashley MacIsaac annihilated this traditional song, you need to hear fellow Canadian, Naoyuki Ochiai’s blistering version. The fiddle playing is so god-damned fast, I partially blame Amadan for global warming. On a serious note, the album ends with “Devolution Now” A much needed rant towards religious oppression. A rant worth mentioning. A rant worth listening to. And an album worth every penny.
The Go Set: A Journey for a Nation
Well its been barely a year since the last album from Melbourne’s hard-working paddy punk-outfit The Go Set, and it was with some excitement indeed that I received “A Journey for a Nation” in the mail. And right from the outset, I was not disappointed – a great cover depicting scenes from a working-class, industrial looking city backdrop with newspaper clippings of strikes and union action – a most appropriate image for a band whose lyrics are always representative of the common man – both today and in the past.
Now where to start…first perhaps a brief note for those unfamiliar with this band. The Go Set are an indie band mixing up the punk genre with a mix of celtic instrumentation (bag pipes, mandolin piano accordion etc.) combined with a political outspoken-ness to match legendary Australian band Midnight Oil.
Singer/songwriter Justin Keenan has delivered in this album another set of clever songs expressing his brilliance as a story-teller commanding vivid imagery and a sense of injustice in the pit of your stomach.
The album is definitely a progression for the band. Lyrically it is probably the strongest and their experimentation on the instrumentation and melody front has increased with every album. Some of the songs on this album could almost be classed as trad-rock rather than trad-punk, but they pull it off with the same sense of urgency and it is a treat for the ears start to finish. The sleeve notes mention that this album was arranged in the studio as part of the recording process, rather than taking life on the stage first and I think you can tell this from the increased complexity of some of the arrangements over perhaps some of the raw energy from the earlier releases – not that there’s any energy lacking in some of these tracks!
The album kicks off with “Fortune and Gold”, a tale of mutiny and murder with pipes and a clever little mandolin counter-melody.
This is followed up with the happy-feeling “The Rising Tide” with very catchy use of piano accordion & violin.
“The New Minority” has great imagery combined with a serious social commentary – a sweet melody with some female vocals that took a bit of getting used to for me – my first introduction to the sounds of the fairer sex on a Go Set album!!!
Next comes “Swings and Roundabouts” – a good ol’ rocking tune – traditional Go Set – can’t go wrong!
And followed up by “Bakery Hill”, possibly my favourite tune off the album after only a few listens – this is truly The Go Set at their best, a bagpipe-driven anthem with some great guitar riffs too.
“Sheppards Town” comes in next, The Go Set really do bring small-town working-class living to life in their songs. This is a great mix of the The Go Set’s traditional sound with some new instrumentation.
“Catching the Sun” follows – a mid-tempo, pretty song – poignant lyrics about life in the slow lane.
“Oceans of Blue” comes in next which is another possible favourite – great imagery, a very clever little guitar riff and overall, just brilliant arrangement.
“A Story to Tell” is a ballad, again conjuring up great imagery mixing up family life with the impossible rock n roll dream of an indie band …
“Welcome to the World” launches us straight back into full on Go Set again- excellent stuff, another political anti-war/environmentalist gem.
Next The Go Set lads perform a cover of Billy Bragg’s “Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards” – a very appropriate song for this band, recognising Bragg’s influence over their style: Mixing pop and politics…and it works well with McHaggis’ pipes and the overall rocking feel.
The album closes out with “Journey of a Thousand Miles” – an epic track at 7 minutes long. First thing that struck me with it was the enlightened rhythm section – just spot on. A very beautiful accordion melody, a few more female vocals and another legendary set of story-telling lyrics from Keenan.
The Go Set have delivered another quality album and yet it isn’t more of the same either…something for new and old fans alike. I can’t wait to see how this all pans out in a live show as they take this album on the road with all the enthusiasm only The Go Set can muster…great work lads!!! I strongly recommend this album, and if you ever get the chance, make sure you get to a live show!
The Killigans: One Step Ahead of Hell
Talk about yer tough jobs, ‘One Step Ahead Of Hell’ has the challenge of following The Killigans’ brilliant debut, ‘Brown Bottle Hymnal’. While ‘Brown Bottle Hymnal’ hit the scene like a bucket of ice water in the morning, ‘One Step Ahead of Hell’ takes that wake-up call and expands upon it. In my opinion, the biggest difference between this release and the awesome ‘Brown Bottle Hymnal’ is variety. Where the band’s debut CD immediately showed a common thread that permeated its sound, ‘One Step…’ shows a real spreading of the band’s wings, which seems less concerned with maintaining a particular sound and, in doing so, shows a cohesiveness and signature with such a naturally occurring ease that I think this band could be recognized doing any song they chose. This signature sound is due largely to Brad Hoffman’s vocals. Sounding almost as if it underwent the same distortion as Chris Nebesniak’s guitar, together they create a sound as distinctive as anything else in this genre. The two compliment each other perfectly and work well with the driving urgency brought forth by the band’s hyperactive rhythm section, (how many arms does this drummer have, anyways?). Also worthy of mention is Pat Nebesniak, as one of the few accordion players aware of the power of subtlety, and Zach Stroup’s mandolin can sit in the front of the mix being delicate enough not to overshadow the other instruments but focused enough to carve out its own identity. The addition of piper Edwin Makusha smoothes out the transition, adding a fuller, more mature sound.
In the end it’s the songs that win the day, and ‘One Step Ahead of Hell’ delivers. The entire CD is stacked with high-energy one-two punchers that hit like a sock full of tacks. My favorites: disc opener, Shame and Sorrow, the barn-burning Through The Flames, tear-jerker, The Letter, and disc closer, Kids on the Street.
For fans of the ‘Brown Bottle Hymnal’, I highly recommend ‘One Step Ahead of Hell’, you won’t be disappointed. For those unaware of the Killigans, check out this CD and you will probably soon own ‘Brown Bottle Hymnal’ as well.
The Tossers: Agony
The Tossers last full length release – The Valley of the Shadow of Death – is an absolute classic in my humble opinion – easily one of my top 10 Celtic Punk CDs of all time – on a scale of 1 to 10 its an 11. For The Tossers it was always going to be a tough one to top. Agony comes close – a 9 on the aforementioned scale. So why not the 10 (or even the 11)? Each of the 17 tracks on Agony could easily fit snugly into Valley but Agony is missing it’s equivalent of “Goodmornin’ Da” or the very brilliant “No Loot, No Booze, No Fun”. Still there are truly standout tracks in “Leopardstown Races”, “Siobhan” and “Be” (the “Late”) of Agony. Highly recommended (9 out of 10).
One more thing. What’s with the cheapo death metal art work? I going to blame Victory Records for that.
The Fucking Buckaroos: Demo
The Fucking Buckaroos is great name for a band if ever there was one. No chance of ever being played on commercial radio with that name and absolutely no chance with their sound – Hank Williams meets The Filthy Thieving Bastards on a tour of the seedier drinking holes of San Francisco.
Seanchaí and the Unity Squad: Irish Catholic Boy
It’s amazing how many different musical styles Seanchaí and the Unity Squad can squish into one CD and weave so seamless together – Celtic, Rock’n’Punk, Hip Hop, Electronic, Reggie and even Middle Eastern. “Irish Catholic Boy” kicks off with the balls to the wall guitar and uilleann pipe title track. Then it’s off to Black 47 meets electronic territory with “Gypo” from John Fords masterpiece “The Informer” and “Ernesto Guevara Lynch.” (though you can call me a cynic but had Che’ not been executed he’d have most likely turned into a old murdering bastard of a dictator like his buddy Castro and for that matter does anyone think had Collins lived would have been any different from Dev). The temp drops on the next few tracks as Rachel Fitzgerald joins Chris Byrne on vocals then takes over and man does she have an incredible voice. The electronic “Pope John II, Jerry Springer, and me” is very clever – Chris call’s into Springer’s radio show and run’s rings around the bloviating Springer.
Review – Mustard Finnegan
Flatfoot 56: Jungle of the Midwest Sea
Didn’t flatfoot just release a CD? It must be the vigor and energy of youth but less then 12 months since “Knuckles Up”, Chicago’s favorite born again boot boys are back with a new full length. Flatfoot play loud and fast street punk / Oi with the mucho bagpipes. Dropkick Murphys and The Real McKenzies look out.
Review – Mustard Finnegan
Greenland Whalefishers: Amazing Space (B-sides And Other Crap)
IF you’re reading this and haven’t heard of GWF then most likely you’ve surfed here by accident – click here to escape. Otherwise, you’ll be well familiar with the mighty Pogues inspired Celtic Punk from the Fjords of Norway. Basically this is a collection of all the all now difficult if not impossible to get EPs and singles that the band has released over their 10 years together plus a couple of newbie’s and a great live version of “Loboville” – any thoughts about a live CD lads?
Review – Mustard Finnegan
Charm City Saints: Never Go Home Again – EP
Charm City Saints: Never Go Home Again – EP Charm City Saints are the real thing. Some bands look tough, these guys are. Heard a story about CCS (from a couple of different sources I add) when they played with Neck in D.C., I guess the soundguy was making wise cracks about the band and Celtic Punk in general – not a good idea – only the D.C. cops showing up as the band chase him down the street prevent Mr. loud mouth from getting the kicking he deserved. And the music? Tough as the band. Classic punk’n’bag pipes, very much in the vein of DKM and the McKenzies.
Review – Mustard Finnegan
Long time S’n’O readers (know as the shitebags) will be well familiar with the mighty Tulsa based Larkin. Larkin contributed 2 tracks to Shite’n’Onions Vol. 2. and I’m very please to report to the shitebags that there is no change to Larkin’s familiar Pogues inspired sound on Alexandra their new 6 track (+ 1 hidden) track EP. The music is still raw, powerful Irish folk-punk with a huge nod to The Pogues and Barney Murray era Blood or Whiskey. Pay attention to the 7th and hidden track where signer Chad strips bear the mental illness (Gunner Syndrome) that dogged him since childhood.
Frank Mackey & The Keltic Cowboys: Songs of Longing & Debauchery
I don’t mean this in a bad way but Frank Mackey & The Keltic Cowboys reminds me a hell of a lot of The Charlie Daniels Band – the high energy fiddle I guess (and the bum on the cover looks a bit like ol’ Charlie) – thought it’s a drunken Irish-American frat boy Charlie Daniel’s leading the “toga, toga” chant on St. Patrick’s Day. Lot’s of fun and perfect for that Paddy’s Day party.
The Radiators from Space: Trouble Pilgrim
The Radiators from Space were (are) a band way ahead of their time. They were the first Irish punk band – formed in Dublin back in the mid-seventies. Their first 7” single “Television Screen” is a major punk classic and the first punk single to break the top 20 anywhere in the world. Rolling Stone Magazine ranks “Television Screen” as the best of all the early punk singles. The band released 2 classic LP’s the fast and furious “TV Tube Heart” and the very clever “Ghostown” – unfortunately by the time “Ghostown” hit the shelves punk was dead or at least it’s openness to new ideas was dead and the Rads were way too cleaver for the cartoon punk had become. The band members went their separate ways. Phil Chevron (guitar and vocals) as you all know joined The Pogues, Pete Holidai (guitar) became a member of great 80’s band Light a Big Fire (and the first band I ever saw live at the age of 14 in Arnotts Department Store of all places) and Steve Rapid (vocals) told some band from Dublin called The Hype their name sucked and they should try something cool like “U2” as a name – they did and Bono’s being annoying us since.
In 2003 the band decided to get back together and put out a couple of CD EPs of re-recorded versions of their early classics including an explosive live version of “Television Screen” and “Kitty Ricketts” with new (and now since departed) bass player Cait O’Riordan handling vocals giving the song an extra snarling sleazy edge.
28 years after the release of “Ghostown” the Rad’s have released their 3rd CD, “Trouble Pilgrim” and what a great CD it is. Possibly the best real rock CD I’ll hear this year or next. Everything is about this CD is first class – the songs, the lyrics, the playing, the production. The music is trashy punk, heavily influenced by the early 70’s American punk sound (Iggy & The Stooges, The MC5 and The New York Dolls) mixed with classic British glam (Bowie, Mott the Hoople and T Rex) and 60’s bubble gum pop (Beatles, Byrds). The Joe Strummer tribute “Joe Strummer” is a must hear as is “Huguenot” and the re-recorded “Hinterland”.
Dated? No, not at all, in fact if the Rads weren’t a bunch of Irish men, aged 50 plus but say 25 year old Glaswegians they would be on the cover of Rolling Stone today as the future of Rock’n’Roll. Any justice in this world? No, but let just be thankful that great bands like The Radiators from Space are still making great music for the love of it because it’s music that needs to be heard.
PS Check out this indepth and spot on review of “Trouble Pilgrim” by Boz of The Steam Pig – Rabble Rouser Reviews and Sean Holland excellent review of “The Very Best of” for Shite’n’Onions
Mutiny: Co-op Brewery
Co-op Brewery was a well deserved 4th on the “Shite’n’Onions 10 Ten CD’s” of 2006. I believe it’s the bands 5th album to date and while I can’t claim to have heard the early releases, I have heard everything since 1997’s “Rum Rebellion” and I think it’s a safe wager to say it’s the best thing Mutiny have every done. For the uninitiated, Mutiny are a bunch of DIY/crusty punks playing trashy, punked up folk very much rooted in the sounds and history of Australia and the southern seas. 8 songs in total and not a bad one in the bunch.
The Clay Faces: EP
Jug’o’Punch is dead. Long live The Clay Faces. The mighty Jug’o’Punch may be no more but former members (Andrew – vox, Steve – banjo, Cara & Pauly) have cropped back up as the mighty The Clay Faces. This 4 track debut EP is very much in the hard-folk style of Jug’o’Punch though with a much lesser Irish influence and much more American. i.e.less Clancy Brothers, more Johnny Cash.
The Swaggerin’ Growlers: The Bottle and the Bow
The Swaggerin’ Growlers is a great name for a band, and a very true to life name. I knew Johnny Swagger (vocals) knew how to swagger as I’ve see him in action at many a Skels show. What I didn’t know was Johnny’s ability to growl so masterfully as demonstrated on “The Bottle and the Bow”. The music and the growl is straight ahead Celtic Punk, very much in the vein of The Skels and Flogging Molly with some Bouncing Souls/$wingin’ Utter$ style punk. Recommended.
The band Belfast (Белфаст) are from Moscow of course. Who self style themselves as “Rock-a-Paddy”. So what is “Rock-a-Paddy” you ask? Punked up, old school Rockabilly with a (talented) Steve Jones on lead guitarist, and a kick ass rhythm section playing Irish influenced and traditional standards (Irish Rover, Drunken Sailor, Follow me up to Carlow). The vocals are all in Russian and even though I don’t speak or understand a word that doesn’t take away anything from my enjoyment. Great band, great CD and their version of “Paddy public enemy #1” is amazing.