ALBUM REVIEW: ALTERNATIVE ULSTER- ‘Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer’ (2018)

Back again with their third album it’s New York’s Alternative Ulster with another, lucky for us, thirteen songs of punk rock driven energetic Celtic pride, humor and downright defiance.

Almost six months to the day that previous album, Pog Mo Thoin, hit the streets New York’s Alternative Ulster are back again with another album of rough’n’ready Irish-American Celtic-Punk to stir the spirits and drink them too! Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer follows on from that album with more of the same humour, politics and fun that made Pog Mo Thoin such a hit.

Alternative Ulster left to right- Jay Andersen (Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals) * Todd Henry (Vocals, Drums) * John McGovern (Bagpipes, Bass, Banjo, Tin-Whistle, Backing Vocals)

Alternative Ulster sprung into action in March 2015 in New York State’s Catskill’s region releasing their debut album, Rebellion, in February 2016. That album received unanimous praise from across the worlds Celtic-Punk media but sadly soon after the band split into two factions with one continuing as Alternative Ulster and the other becoming the excellent Templars Of Doom. Both bands can be best described in the words of band bagpiper John as ‘1916 meets 1977’ and tread similar paths in the Celtic-Punk scene.

So have Alternative Ulster changed at all in the six months since their last album? Well the answer is a resounding NO! Why change a winning formula and while it may still be a tad too punky for some traditional Celtic-Punk fans it still sits nicely within the scene. Todd is again bashing bloody hell out of the drums while barking the lyrics over Jay’s fantastic guitar work and the superb bagpipes of scene celebrity John McGovern drones loud and proud. The album kicks off with the punk rebel song ‘No Queen, No Crown’ and is in defence of the kilt and its history.

“Don’t call it a dress,
or you’ll be a mess.

You call it a kilt,
to honor blood spilt”.

These Bhoys take their Celticness very seriously!

Yeah its more of the same and ‘Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer’ kicks off with a ‘Duelling Banjos’ style intro between bagpipes and banjo before breaking off into a song celebrating the things that real men love! If anything the music has gotten even more punk rock than previously. Its the sound of UK punk from around 1977. Think Sex Pistols rather than The Clash. On ‘The Sheep Pretend’ John also weighs in with a thundering bass that gives the song a post-punk feel while Todd still shouts the words in a eighty cigarettes a day rasp. Next up is the song that inspired their name all that time ago. On St. Paddy’s Day 2015, original guitarist Jerry came up with the idea inspired by The Stiff Little Finger’s classic song. Their version of ‘Alternative Ulster’ is straight up two fingers in the air punk rock. Played at breakneck speed and with bagpipes its a class song.

‘Sail Home British Soldiers’ is up next and is a American civil war rebel song. The first time the British Empire ever had its arse kicked was by the Americans and feelings still run high even though Alternative Ulsters ancestors were still living in Ireland at the time. The song has a real bite that makes The Wolfe Tones sound like Foster And Allen and a thumping beat that’s a sure fire mosh pit filler.

“Neither collar nor crown,
shall this patriot wear.
You can’t have my musket,
You’ll die if you dare.
So fuck off you fucking fucks,
and fuck you as well.
Before I bow once,
I’ll see you in hell”.

In part inspired by Ted Nugent’s ‘Homebound’ and if you like that then you’ll recognise the beginning of ‘Bonnie Little Scott’ up next. The song is a tribute to Bon Scott of every punk rockers favourite Heavy Metal band AC/CD and borrows heavily from their hit ‘Thunderstruck’. The story of Bon’s short life is told in song by Jay and with Alternative Ulsters usual humour. More of that next in ‘Dudelsack’ and while I don’t know what a dudelsack is I resisted the urge to look it up and can only assume it is part of a Bagpipe. Next is my album highlight and you’d have to be a right misery not to find ‘Spilt Upon Me Kilt’ absolutely hilarious. Set on St. Patrrick’s Day or actually the aftermath of St. Paddy’s Day and where the stains on their kilts tell the story of debauchery, alcohol and many bad decisions. All set to the traditional Christmas Carol tune ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. Catchy and a song to really involve the crowd it made me spit my tea out when I first heard it.

‘Chuck It In The Fuck-It Bucket’ and ‘Counting Other’s Sins’ show Alternative Ulster at two different angles with the straight punk morphing into a punky-reggae tune while both songs are still dominated by the pipes of John. Another album standout is up next with the autobiographical ‘McGoverns Bar And Grill’ telling of John’s Mam and Dad and the working class Irish pub they ran in Tolentine Hill. Opened by John’s Grandad when he arrived in the States from America the pub was by the Tolentine cathedral at the heart of the big Irish parish in the Bronx.

“While on the bar sat a can for NorAid,
not to buy books, but guns and grenade.
My pint of black stuff was really just Coke,
all the old men laughed, it was a fine joke”.

The McGovern Clan with John in the red.

The song gives just a sense of what it means to be Irish-American and for this album at least is as close to a ballad as they come. A tremendous song full of passion and if  ‘McGoverns Bar And Grill’ showed the trio have got more in them than just rowdy punk rock then the album’s second version of ‘Alternative Ulster’ proves it. With John joining in with Todd’s shouty growl with banjo, shuttle pipes and tin-whistle while mate of the band Scott Benson rocks up with the bodhran. The album comes to an end with ‘Crawl Back In Your Shithole’ and the boot is suck firmly into President Trump and his ilk. Seemingly over in a flash its a great way to end the album and bring things to an end.

Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer came out last week and was recorded, mixed and mastered by band maestro Jay Andersen at Operation-Audio/ Bohemosphere in Saugerties, NY. The amazing album cover art was by the talented Gail Benson. Now it would be absolutely pointless telling you that this album will appeal to everyone as it quite obviously won’t. My Mammy may love most forms of music but I guarantee that she’d think this is one Unholy mess!! Still I don’t think that will matter much to the Alternative Ulster bhoys. The music keeps flowing out of them as they take their rightful place on the punkier side of Celtic-Punk. Alternative Ulster are happy to keep it lit and as they say somewhere on here

“When the day is done, we just want to have fun,
And we will for year after year”.

Buy Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer

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