ALBUM REVIEW: RED HOT CHILLI PIPERS- ‘Octane’ (2016)

A fusion of traditional tunes and rock classics taking ‘Bagrock’ to a whole new level!

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Just the other day we reviewed the new single from Scots folk-rockers The Red Hot Chilli Pipers and we were so impressed that we’ve decided we had to check out and review their new album Octane as well. Released last June, Octane continues The Pipers quest to introduce the world to their very own genre of music- Bagrock!

Red Hot Chilli Pipers

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers are an Scottish pipe and drum group formed in 2002 and since their formation have combined guitars, keyboards, drums and, of course, bagpipes to create a style of music they have labelled ‘bagrock’. The band have toured the world performing a fusion of traditional pipe tunes and contemporary songs ever since. They have released a host of successful and acclaimed albums including their debut, the self titled, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers followed by Bagrock To the Masses and in 2008, their third and first, live album, Blast Live. 2010 saw their most popular album to date’s release Music for the Kilted Generation, which reached Number Two on the US Amazon Chart. The title is a parody of the Music for the Jilted Generation album by The Prodigy which sets the tone for much of what The Pipers do. Breathe was released in July 2013 and their latest album Octane, which came out earlier this year, continues to mix up both traditional Scottish tunes and rock classics, taking bagrock to a whole new level! Famed for their exhilarating live show it has led to them playing festival after festival around the world and seen their star rise above heights they must have thought unimaginable back at home in 2002!

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Octane carries on in much the same way as those previous album’s with a selection of stone cold rock classics and some of the bands own compositions all done and re-arranged with some of the best bagpipe playing you will find put down on record in 2016. Kicking off with ‘La Grange: La Grange / The Green Room’ its starts with a bit of boogey-woogie and then some strong guitar and then the pipes stroll in and takeover. ‘Starlight: Starlight / Charlie Brown’ is up next and aye its the Muse song intertwined with a track by Coldplay. Now some of the keyboard arrangements are a bit cheesy I’m afraid, it has to be said, but who cares cos as soon as the piping starts your away and you don’t give a toss! Its time for some trad next with a song called, yes you guessed it, ‘Time for Trad: The Kesh / Old Wullie’s Dog / Merrily Kiss the Quaker’s Wife’ where the Pipers go to town with a truly brilliant bit of celtic-rock that for me is the standout track on Octane. ‘Fat Bottomed Girls: Fat Bottomed Girls / Fat Arsed Lassies’ is up next with Queen’s famous non-PC track.

One of the better, but little known, Queen tracks and here given a brilliantly catchy rendition and accompanied by a fantastic video as well that you must check out above. Another unusual, but again superb, cover next with The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army: Roadhouse Song / Seven Nation Army’ before their own composition ‘Pressed For Time’ which again stands out among the covers. Now is a good time to tell you that (almost) all the songs are instrumental with no vocals. I am torn between thinking this is a good or bad thing. The album is great as it is but would they benefit from a singer I’m just not sure so I will stick to the old adage

“if it aint broke don’t fix it”

‘The Fallen’ was written by Red Hot Chilli Piper Roddy S. MacDonald and was released just the other week as a charity single as a tribute to the 343 heroes from the Fire Department of New York who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001.(you can find more on the single release and how to buy it/donate here). ‘Chasing Love’ is another Pipers composition and as you could probably tell from the title is a much slower song before transforming into ‘The Way It Is: The Way It Is / Chasing Love’ and like nearly all the covers here you’ll be instantly racking your memory as you know the song but can’t quite reach who the artist is! As the album nears the end there’s more famous rock and pop songs here like Van Halen’s ‘Jump: Jump / Dancing Feet’, John Mayer’s ‘Neon: Neon / Wee Derek’s Song’ and Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule the World: The Bung / Everybody Wants to Rule the World’. They wait till the second last track to give us a real old traditional favourite with ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme’ which is credited to Francis McPeake back in 1957 though thought to be at least two centuries older. For the only time on the album we get treated to vocals and nowhere here do the band sound so Scottish especially as the song so strongly resembles the famous Scots tune ‘Go Lassie Go’ so much. Octane comes to an explosive end with ‘Urban: Rip the Calico’ and goodbyes are said with another catchy Red Hot Chilli Pipers song that really hits the spot.

So their you go fourteen tracks, mostly covers but with a decent smattering of self penned numbers that comes in at just over fifty minutes. Great value and the energy doesn’t cease for a single second throughout. The piping is simply brilliant and the accompanying mix of guitar, drums, brass etc., is inspired. Production is superb but if you’re not a fan of bagpipes (if so then why are you here?) then this won’t interest you BUT if, like me, you fecking love them then this album is an absolute must. It definitely errs towards the easy listening section of your local (if you got one!) record shop but let that not distract you from what is a excellent album of traditional Scottish music for the present day.

Buy The Album

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