Yup, the Bastards are back! Galicia’s own Bastards on Parade seem to have tossed aside their “annual 4-track E.P.” motif operandi with their latest offering, the full-length CD, Tales from the Death Shore.
But this is hardly the only change for this band with this release! The Bastards’ journey of evolution seems to be similar to that of one of their main influence’s,The Dropkick Murphys. But with each step, the band moved ever away from being yet another DKM-esque Paddy-Punk outfit. And with Tales from the Death Shore, the Bastard’s have begun to well and truly carve out their own place in this ever-growing field.
Without question, the Bastards have the song-craft down. This would probably be where many of the lesser bands have stumbled, but where BoP truly shine. They have honed their style to be a solid, rocking, yet accessible Celtic Folk-Punk sound, seamlessly incorporating all instruments, (guitars, bass, gaita, drums, whistle and mandolin,) into each song to create a true focus. But this has always been the strength of this band. And happily, this is still the case on Tales from the Death Shore.
No, it is Identity that seems to be the Hydra tackled on this release.
You see, early on, the Bastards decided to incorporate the gaita, (or Galician bagpipe,) into their instrumentation. Now, I don’t know if this was a conscious choice to assert the band’s Galician identity, or one made out of necessity from the availability of pipers in the Galician area, but I do know that it has lent a nice cultural signature to the band’s music.
And now, on Tales From the Death Shore, a distinct accent in the vocals has become apparent. Far more-so than with the Bastards’ previous three releases. Now, call me paranoid, or simply over-analyzing, but I can’t help wondering if this is, again, a conscious decision to express the Iberian-Celtic identity of the band. If this was a planned one, it is not only a good idea, but one that has proven successful for band influences, The Dropkick Murphys, (Ken Casey’s Boston accent drips all over every one of that band’s material.)
And then there are the songs themselves. Local references are peppered amongst Tales from the Death Shore, (most noticeably in the immediately catchy track, Gaelic,) but the inclusion of two Galician traditional tunes, all “Bastardized up” to BoP standards; opener Marcha do Antigo Reino de Galiza, (“The March of the Old Kingdom of Galicia,”) and “Chantada’s Jig,” (also known as Muiñeira de Chantada, one of Galicia’s most popular folk tunes!), really cements this argument.
Now, the incorporation of cultural pride is fine, expressing feelings toward one’s home, an’ all that, and makes for great subject matter for any band. However, in the case of the Bastards on Parade, it really elevates the band up to a higher level. It gives the band more personality, not just the authors of a collection of songs. This metamorphosis is either a very smart marketing move, or an extremely fortunate development. It also makes for some damned good listening.
In the Celtic Folk-Punk genre, there are a few well-overused clichés: the old “Shane-like” vocals, massive accordion-focused production, and the most blatant, and tired of all, the excessive drinking songs. Used in moderation, a good drinking song is great. However, nothing but drinking songs makes a band come across as shallow; a one-trick pony. The Bastards have successfully avoided all of these pitfalls, throughout their brief yet productive career to date. And the inclusion of Galician traditional songs and tunes can only open up the ink-well for further material for these guys!
After all, it is the songs that are the meat and potatoes of any good CD. And this is a really good CD! The Galician elements add a nice flavor to the mix, but nothing here is too “foreign” or unusual. Every track, (or should I say, “Tale!”) is accessible and familiar and in keeping with the BoP sound. My personal faves on the disc, (aside from the aforementioned ‘Gaelic,’ which I dig a lot!) must be the moody and introspective ‘Raging Sea’, the staunch and proud battle hymn, ‘(Black) Flags and Torches,’ and what might be considered the band’s first official single from this release, the driving and unrelenting, ‘Infamous,’ with its rousing chorus and pervasive mandolin wandering.
I have been lucky enough to follow along with Bastards on Parade’s growth and evolution, and although I know that Tales from the Death Shore is only the current stage in their development, it is really good one. Thanks, guys!
File under “highly recommended.”
Review by Christopher P. Toler, THE Blathering Gommel