EP REVIEW: THE RAMSHACKLE ARMY – ‘Highflyer’ (2021)

One of Australia’s finest Celtic punk exports are back with their first EP since 2016’s ‘Whitewashed Graves’. Have they still got it? Make no mistake: these guys pack a punch, and they always have.

The Ramshackle Army kicked the Celt-folk door open way back in 2010. Quickly, they proved they could deliver exciting, fast-paced performances to rival the best of ’em. While they’ve obviously been influenced by The Dropkick Murphys, and have a core sound reminiscent of 2000s-era punk rock, the band is much more than a mere Dropkicks tribute, let me tell ya that!

The Army have toured the US several times, supportin’ top names like The Tossers and The Dropkicks themselves, and sharing festival stages with Flatfoot 56 and The Mahones. The Army (as I shall refer to them from now on) have described their music as “the sounds of punk rock, with a dose of the Celtic folk”. And that, my friend, is precisely what we have here on ‘Highflyer’. And damn, it’s good to see these guys the other side of lockdown.

The Ramshackle Army. L-R: Jig (bass), Nath (guitar), Gaz (vocals), Adge (drums), Josh (banjo/mandolin) and Kat (fiddle).

To the EP itself: this 5-track record is a thrasher, from start to finish 🙂 It also showcases some of the band’s punkiest moments to date. From the minute the title track “Highflyer” kicks in, we know we’re in for another good ride. Singer Gaz Byrne treats us to the catchy, Cockney-tinged vocal melodies we’re used to from him. The sound again immediately provides that homely feeling that Celtic music always summons in the listener. With lines like “Where is the line in the sand? / Why do highflyers sink so low?”, the song takes a critical swipe at the business success but lack of moral principles embraced by some “highflyers”, wrapping it up in a hopeful and powerful chorus. A strong opener, and one that brings back memories of “Protest Songs” from the aforementioned ‘Whitewashed Graves’ EP, or indeed 2012’s classic “Rue The Day”, the video to which is currently nearing 50,000 views on YouTube.

Tracks #2 (“Bend Don’t Break”) and #3 (“Rise and Fall”) allow the band’s rock sound into the foreground, with the fiddles and mandolins taking more of a back seat. However, this takes nothing away from the musicianship of these songs, and our favourite Celtic instruments make a strong return in the interestingly-titled “The Also Rans”. If you’re looking for the band’s signature “woah-oh!” singalong moments, then await the chorus patiently 😁 For me, this is the second strongest song on the record only to title track “Highflyer”, but you might feel differently, so crank the volume 😉

You’ll want to keep the volume up for closer “Old Weapons”, too. I’m pretty familiar with The Army’s back catalogue, but they’ve hardly ever sounded heavier or faster than they do here. A desperate burst of energy to emerge from the terrible pandemic that’s wrecked people’s lives, perhaps? Maybe. Either way, this one’s sure to be a firm singalong at the band’s gigs in support of the EP, supplying 1 minute and 49 seconds of untempered energy.

Anyway, enough from me…to feast yer ears on this fine piece o’ work, click HERE or try Spotify.

To connect with the band, check ’em out on Facebook or Instagram.

After 11 years in the biz, The Ramshackle Army are still tight as fuck. If it’s good-quality, almost virtuoso-level Celtic punk that you seek, you’ll still find it right here.

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