From backyard barbie to the biggest stages in Australia, Handsome Young Strangers play 100% colonial bush folk-punk !
The EP begins with the raging self-penned number ‘The Battle Of Broken Hill’ and it tells a very strange story indeed. As with most Aussie bands they dig deep into their countries rich and tragic history and come up with a real belter of a song that shows that the modern scourge of religion based terror attacks are not a new thing. Over 100 years ago at Broken Hill in New South Wales two Muslim men supposedly working for the Ottaman Empire opened fire on a train full of tourists. In the ensuing gun battle and subsequent siege four people were murdered and the killers themselves were shot down in a final dramatic shoot out. The Go-Set’s Lachlan McSwain guests on bagpipes and the song sounds not unlike the Rumjacks most folkier songs. A real thigh slapper and more than a touch of country’n’western all over this great opener.
I couldn’t figure how to group the songs together so though this would be the best way so read about the song and then play the song. Simple. Next up is ‘Mrs Jones’ a song written by one time Handsome Young Stranger Andrew ‘Fredo’ Donkin who sings vocals on the song. More of a rocky number with the folk instruments pushed to the back but still there. A nice bit of Hammond organ too, ably played by Michael Carpenter, who mastered the EP. A real catchy chorus here.
Now it don’t take a genius to suss out what ‘Poor Ned’ is about. I was brought up on folk stories about the great Ned Kelly. Being the son of Tipperary this Aussie outlaw featured quite high in my bedtime stories of him taking on the British army while helping the poor and needy and fighting back against anti-Catholic and anti-Irish discrimination rampant in the colony. If ever their was a symbol of Australian celtic-punk than itn is Ned Kelly.
“You know they took Ned Kelly
And they hung him in the Melbourne gaol
He fought so very bravely
Dressed in iron mail
And no man single-handed
Can hope to break the bars
It’s a thousand like Ned Kelly
Who’ll hoist the flag of stars”
Written by Trevor Lucas it was first recorded by Fothringay and released as a single and was used as title track of the Tony Richardson film Ned Kelly starring Mick Jagger. Also performed by Fairport Convention (here) and Adelaide 1970’s folk-punk band Red Gum (here) Handsome Young Strangers give it a real blast through. A really good version with the Strangers stamp all the way through.
The longest song on the EP follows with ‘I, Argonaut’ clocking in at over six minutes. Another self -penned number written by DrizoBone D it’s the slowest song on the EP though that doesn’t matter much in the world of celtic-punk.
‘Maxine’ follows and is a unusual cover of the New Zealand born singer-songwriter Sharon O’Neill (here) smash hit in Australia and NZ from 1983. The song tells the sad story of a prostitute in Kings Cross, the red light area of Sydney.
“Maxine, you’re not the only one
To take the whole world on
But no one’s ever won
Maxine, Case 1352
A red and green tattoo
Eyes cold steel blue”
Well done to the Bhoys for choosing such an unusual song and certainly not one I ever heard before. It’s played as a straight up rock number and fits in perfectly with the EP.
The EP ends with ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ and what exactly can you say about one of the most popular and recogniseable celtic songs ever written. The Waterboys track became a ‘classic’ a long long time ago and I’m sure has kept Mike Scott plenty warm in clover over the years. Here the Strangers keep pretty much to the blueprint but again add just enough to make it their own. Superb fiddle here which adds a touch of country to the celtic.
The Battle Of Broken Hill is the fourth release from the simply amazing Tasmanian record label ‘Folk ‘Til Ya Punk’ and is available in physical and digital formats as well as iTunes but before you give your hard earned to those tax dodging bastards please check out the record label’s store. They are wholly independent and I daresay run on a shoestring, but nobody is doing more at the moment to promote new music within the celtic-folk punk scene. A real labour of love!. Folk ‘Til Ya Punk will be going on to release their new album in early 2017 and I truly cannot wait to hear it.
Australiana (I love that word!) bushpunk stalwarts Handsome Young Strangers are an institution in the Sydney folk-punk scene and deservedly so too. Here they have delivered a quality EP of almost half an hour of great Aussie music. Seriously I’ve been reviwing LP’s all year with smaller running times than that! Six songs, three of their own and three well chosen and polished covers. It won’t surprise anyone to hear I loved this and that I’m sure anyone with the smallest appreciation for any of the bands mentioned will as well.