Sarcastic Folk-Rock band from Glasgow, eclectically influenced by folk, grunge, psychedelic rock, metal, glam rock, blues and doom. Our man in South Carolina TC Costello ran the rule over their new album Distant Banging of which they plan to spend any profits on cheap drink and Gaffer Tape.
After playing an acoustic show with Glasgow’s Visceral Noise Department last year they left no doubt in my mind that they were the queen and kings of happy songs with sad lyrics. Their smile-inducing folk rocky tunes with tight harmonies were a joy to listen to until I paid attention to the lyrics. Then the songs were still a joy despite the songs’ stories of poverty, environmental destruction and poor mental health.
The first time I opened for them, however, they were a sloppy folk-punk band that insisted on singing harmonies they couldn’t quite hit. Why the asymmetry? I must admit that it was entirely my fault. I have a song called ‘Whiskey/Whisky,’ during which i encourage the audience play a drinking game in which they take a drink every time i say the I say ‘Whiskey’. I utter eponymous word 44 times in the two-minute song. No audience on the planet drinks throughout the entire song… except in Glasgow. The volume of alcohol and the speed at which they drank it needless to say did not enhance their musical abilities.
So the second time I played with them, they made the responsible decision of scheduling me after Visceral Noise Department’s performance. The band was tight, talented, and had no difficulty with harmonies. So, as my first experience with them was a trainwreck, the second experience was a damned good show, and my third was their new album ‘Distant Banging,’ I can honestly say VND gets better every time.
The album ventures to hard-rock, folk-rock, psychedelia, country, grunge, and even spoken word. This may sound a bit all-over-the-place, and it is. But by pacing the album, they make it work.
The opening song, ‘Gold Medal in Mental Gymnastics’, is a catchy hard rock number a bit reminiscent of Thin Lizzy, complete with a harmonised guitar solo. The lyrics are sharp, sarcastic, and anything but subtle. The opening line ‘I love having a boss and a landlord; It feels great’! leaves no ambiguity. Unless you don’t understand sarcasm, I suppose. Other things the narrator ’loves’ are ’being considered a cripple’, ’rats in the ceiling’, and ’having no choice in the matter,’ The song ends with the singalong: “Lalalalalalalalala. I’m a Happy Man!”
The second number, “Venus,” is a psychedelic folk-rock song about environmental destruction, and once again has a straight-to-the-point from the start: “It’s hard to write a country song when the country side is gone’. Nor is there any confusion in the chorus: ‘Burn it all, burn it all again. Let’s go live in Hell’.
The title of the song, seems to be reference to environmental conditions on the planet Venus, as its atmosphere is full of carbon dioxide, and even has acid rain. ‘Venus’ and the third song, ‘Semi-Educated Delinquent’, a folk-rock number about a child left behind by the education system, features some stellar fiddle work by members of Glasgow bands The Trongate Rum Riots and Sloth Metropolis.
A third of the way through the album goes in unexpected direction. And that direction is straight to early ‘90s Seattle. While listening to songs tracks that reflect what on traditional marriage and what it means to struggle I’m also filled with fond memories of when I learned to play guitar, bashing Nirvana riffs on my old Stratocaster knockoff.
The sixth song, ‘Made my Bed’, is reminiscent of some of Soundgarden’s more psychedelic work and tells the story of someone stuck in where they are in life.
Another psychedelic track, ‘A Warm Place’, comes next and features spacey guitars and eerie backup vocals and even a spoken-word poem by Jenny Tingle, the band’s drummer. It focuses on mental health issues.
‘Daddy’s Dole’ is a hard-rocking blues rock number with goofy lyrics that tell the story of someone living off their father’s employment benefits. Then their father loses the benefits then the narrator has to find a job. It features some nice blues harmonica by Kris Dye from Glasgow blues rock band Multistory Lover.
With ‘Middle Class Hero’, a folk-rocky song focusing on privilege, Visceral Noise Department further proves they want you to know what their songs are about:
“Two men faced off in the colosseum,
One raised his father’s sword,
the other raised his fists,
Now if I was a gambling man,
I’d tell you where I’d bet,
I won’t put down my fathers sword tonight”
The chorus, with the line
‘Don’t call it meritocracy, that really makes me laugh’
, further cements the far from vague nature of their lyrics.
The band venues back to psychedelia with ‘Utopia’ and the album gets a reprise of the its grunge phase with ‘Modern City Blues’. With the closer, ‘Maybe It’ll be Alright (The Ambulance Song)’, the band manages to combine nearly all their influences into one song.
Throughout the song, Visceral Noise Department features spooky harmonies evocative of Alice in Chains’ grunge, the combination of drums with acoustic guitar is reminiscent of the ’60s folk rock revival, and the spacey lead guitar and multi tracked violin and cello create a psychedelic effect. A perfect ending to the album.
While not a Celtic-punk album, (though Visceral Noise Department are Scottish and active in the punk subculture, so maybe it is) ‘Distant Banging’ is certain to appeal to fans of the genre. Much of their grunge errs on the punkier side of it, the lyrics touch on themes common in punk and Celtic trad, and I defy you to find a better-paced album
(you can hear Distant Banging on the Bandcamp player below before you buy! The download is only a bargain £3!!)
Buy Distant Banging FromTheBand
the irrepressible TC Costello makes another welcome return to our shores this June with a month long run of dates that will take him the length and breadth of the British and Irish isles! Watch out for two dates at The Lamb in Surbiton, south-west London. The first as part of the pub’s special Lamb Fest and the other a special show put together by London Celtic Punks that will feature some local legends and special guests.
Tagged: Visceral Noise Department