Labelled as everything from ‘celtic-punk’ to ‘gypsy-punk’ to ‘pirate-swing’ to ‘anarcho-circus-music’.
They are all and none of these!
North-Eastern American folk-punkers Mischief Brew celebrate their fifteen year landmark with the release of ‘This Is Not For Children’, their fourth studio album and their first on the world renowned Alternative Tentacles record label. Formed in 2000 out of the ashes of various deceased local punk bands in Philadelphia they have seemingly been on non-stop tour ever since. With a whole rack of albums, EP’s, compilation albums behind them Mischief Brew have moved away from the experimental sound of their early days and have developed into a mighty fine band that has the power to both entertain both yer body as well as influence yer mind. Written in a South Philly garage with three instruments, the occasional sound of acoustic guitar, violin, junk percussion and glockenspiel among others creep in but basically ‘This Is Not For Children’ sticks to the Mischief Brew game plan and comes out on top.
Unlike many of their previous releases their are only ten tracks on this album but with it clocking in at forty minutes you get a more relaxed band who seem at ease with their sound. Unrushed even when whizzing through the punky album opener ‘Two Nickels’. They follow it up with ‘Bad Heart’ another punky number that takes them further away from that ‘folk-punk’ moniker but they keep one foot firmly in place. ‘Lancaster Avenue Blues’ tells of yuppie property developers renaming neighbourhoods to encourage gentrification. A catchy tune with laid back chugging guitar and fiddle. The anger in the song builds up as they defend their home.
“This is where we live”
What seems to be a global phenomenon of the rich wanting to live and take over the areas where the working classes live…once they have stripped said area of anything that gave them a bit of notoriety or passion. This is something we know in London only too well. Legions of the middle class move on masse to an area effecting housing and rent prices forcing the poorer to leave. That theme is expanded on in the next song ‘City Of Black Fridays’ is a tribute to Philly’s heavily industrial past and working class history. Over five minutes long its an acoustic anthem that brings up various instruments as well as before mentioned glockenspiel.
“We are beaten, full of crow, but I know I’d never call another home ‘home'”
‘Squatter Envy’ follows and wonders if we’re all jealous of the lifestyles of squatters. Hmmm not sure. It’s tongue in cheek sure but squatting should be a necessity not a lifestyle choice especially if you’re gonna boast about it to my face! It always seemed a bit perverse to me the amount of posh squatters in London. It is after all a lot more risky when you have no financial safety net. More than a faint nod towards the anarcho-punk musical scene of the 80’s here. ‘Danger: Falling Pianos’ starts a bit jazzy and is Mischief Brew from fifteen years ago. Next up is ode to their home region ‘O, Pennsyltucky!’ which was released as a single last year and was reviewed by us here so no need to repeat ourselves just click and read the review! A really great song and captures Mischief Brew at possibly their most accessible and possibly even their very best.
(cool fan made live video below but to see the official video go here…its also well worth checking out!)
Title track ‘This Is Not For Children’ rattles along superbly and is the highlight of the album for me. More of the same and no harm in that at all. ‘No Candlesticks’ is another highlight and perhaps the album’s most folky song but still with that strong punk edge to it. The LP ends with the heartfelt tribute to lost friends ‘Slow Death Hymn’ and lead singer Erik sings in his tender voice of cancer, heroin and tragedy but he rallies the album so that it ends on a positive note with talk of suicide ended with the great line
“I’ll take life, don’t care if it’s fair!”
And that in a nutshell is the album. Yeah their home town ain’t all that great but it is home. Warts and all. Just because the road to a more faire and equal society is not an easy one is no reason to give up. We’re here for the long haul and if you can’t take a couple of setbacks then maybe you were just faking it all along like we always thought. Mischief Brew have the ability to take subjects like gentrification, workers’ rights, squatting, baseball, drinking, growing up and horror movies and mould them together and give them meaning in a way many bands cannot do. They are a band that wants more out of life than to just sell records they want to inspire you to action and they have the ability to do it in spades.
(To listen to the whole album simply press play on the Bandcamp player below)
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