Celtic-Punk again shows it’s international appeal as Mexican band Batallón de San Patricio celebrate the release of their debut album. Named in respect of the famed Irish battalion that fought in the America-Mexico War of 1846-1848 these Bhoys are more than just a pretty name.
Here’s a first for London Celtic Punks a review of a Celtic-Punk release from Mexico. The band in question are called Batallón de San Patricio and for those in the know that is Spanish for St. Patrick’s Battalion and something extremely significant in the relationship between Ireland and Mexico. The band chose their name with great care taking their inspiration from the St. Patrick’s Battalion (see our extensive article The Irish Soldiers Of Mexico In Film And Song from the other day). A group of immigrants, mainly of Irish descent, who deserted from the US Army because of anti-Catholic bigotry and went to fight for the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). It’s a tale of great adventure and heroic valour but ultimately it is another sad chapter in Ireland’s history. They are still commemorated today by the Mexican government and its people with a parade featuring a bagpipe troop. Musically the first links were forged by The Chieftains who collaborated with Ry Cooder on their 2010 San Patricio album which combined Irish and Mexican Folk music to great effect to tell the tale of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion. The album featured a long list of guests, including narration by Liam Neeson of a poem in tribute to the San Patricios. Still those of you who read our article earlier in the week The Irish Soldiers Of Mexico In Film And Song will already be well versed in the history of these giants of men.
So at last we move onto the review and I can hear the relief from here! Batallón de San Patricio were formed in July, 2017 in the city of Guadalajara and right from the start the idea was to pay tribute to their namesakes. In many ways the name was a obvious choice for a band whose chief aim was to play Celtic-Punk mixing Irish and Mexican culture. Their first few months were spent practicing and playing covers of you know who (!) and with a few line up changes they were ready to go and began to pay locally and eventually further afield. It’s been a steady procession for the Bhoys with a 6-track demo in 2018, a 2-track single last year and now finally the album has been completed.
The album is titled Hermanos de Guerra (in English Brothers Of War) and was released on May 30th. Recorded at the Bilbao studio in Guadalajara Mexico by Alex León it’s twelve songs are all sung in Spanish and as I’ve said before I’m a product of the English education system at a time when languages were thought of in the same category as Cooking and Needlework. We had to do them but no care was put into how they were taught. So it is that whatever is being sung about here has, bar a couple of songs, completely passed me by. Not to worry though as the message they spread is a positive one of love, friendship and loyalty. What Celtic-Punk is all about if you ask me.
“We strongly believe in brotherhood, honesty, dignity and respect. Our slogan will always be ‘Family First’. Our music forms part of our life and people around us and to remember those who passed away. We will always step forward on this long hard way making it Green and not forgetting Mexico’s unity with the rest of the world.”
The album begins with the title song ‘Hermanos De Sangre’ and the sound of marching feet soon erupts into a fast and furious Celtic-PUNK number which unless my ears betray tells the story of the St. Patrick’s Battalion. ‘Familia’ featured on their single from last year and unsurprisingly is about the love of family. More folk than it’s predecessor and this will become a common thread throughout the album as they manage record twelve songs that cross all boundaries of Celtic-Folk-Punk and make an album where each song stands on its own feet. Todo Sigue Igual (in English ‘Everything Remains The Same’) slows things down and the lonesome banjo combined with some beautiful Cowboy atmospheric fiddle and almost verging on Country it threatens to come bursting out the blocks but they quite rightly restrain it when it comes and the song is all the better for it.
It may not be as polished as some releases we review here but those slight rough and ready edges give it a live feel that really works for them. ‘Piratas’ introduces one of my favourite instruments, the harmonica, to the fray alongside banjo, violin, harmonica and Irish flute (which I have only recently realised is what some folk call the tin-whistle) and the usual Punk-Rock instruments of bass, guitar and drums.
Let’s face it it wouldn’t be a Celtic-Punk album without a alcohol song and Después Del Alcohol (- ‘After Alcohol’) begins in an usual way with just bass and banjo but Bhoy is it catchy. El Ultimo Partir (- The Last Leaving) takes the previous songs banjo and turns out a more country-fied song again with excellent fiddle work while ‘Fadir’ even has a bit of an English 80’s Punk vibe around it all be it with the fiddle still fiddling expertly away. As I said they skate round a lot of genres here and I have to admit I am drawn to the less Punky ones and songs like ‘Amigo’ really hit the spot. Catchy, well played and with a nice balance of Punk and Folk. For ‘Viciosa Lujuria’ (- ‘Vicious Lust’) though they return to a classic Celtic-Punk sound with tin-whistle to the fore. The video for ‘Leal’ (- ‘Loyal’) came out on St. Patrick’s Day just gone and is dedicated to all the people who have ever been stabbed in the back by someone they once held dear.
It’s the quickest song here at under two minutes and showcases the banjo admirably as they kick out a straight up Punk number though that doesn’t quite prepare for ‘Asesinos Por Naturaleza’ (- ‘Natural born Killer’) which turns the guitar up to 11 and a heavyness and energy we haven’t seen so far. A cracker of a song and one that will no doubt get the dance floor heaving once a few beers have been downed. The album ends with ‘Trotamundos’ (- ‘Globetrotter’) and a slow funereal end to proceedings. The Bhoys harmonise together over a gentle tune with only occasional fiddle over the quiet banjo, bass and drums. A quality end indeed.
So there you go and it’s been an enjoyable forty minutes. To be honest this is the kind of album that I would normally buy regardless of what the music sounded like. The very idea of a Mexican Celtic-Punk band and one based inn such noble Irish history just ticks all my boxes. That the music is also pretty damn good is a bonus. Definitely one for our Spanish speaking readers but don’t be dismayed as this is a thoroughly pleasurable album for non speakers too. A great album for all!
(you can stream or download Hermanos de Guerra on the Bandcamp player below)
Buy Hermanos de Guerra TotemRecords
Batallón De San Patricio played a Live Stream on Facebook last weekend and although tremendous good fun and a brilliant watch they suffered the same fate as we did recently when we featured Callum Houston doing his. That of the dodgy internet connection!!! Well worth persevering with so here’s Part One, Part Two and Part Three. I think I have them in the right order!