One of the best known, most popular and most travelled bands in the the Celtic-Punk scene Pipes And Pints from Czech Republic are back with their third album and a radically different sound!
Pipes And Pints are definitely one of the better known Celtic-Punk bands around so it was a bit of a shock when I sat down to do this review that I realised The Second Chapter is actually only their third album release. Their debut album Until We Die coming out in 2009 and the follow up Lost And Found in 2012. So what have the Bhoys been doing during that time? Well the answer is of course touring. One of the busiest bands in the scene a moment never seemed to pass at one point that I don’t see a tour poster packed with Pipes And Pints dates invading my FB timeline. They even made it over to these shores a few times with performances at Rebellion festival and a rather unfortunate (but still pretty damn amazing!) St. Patrick’s Day London Celtic Punks show at Mannions in Tottenham when the tube network went down and their was travel chaos in London like I had never seen before at that time.
Formed in Prague in 2006 the guy whose inspiration got Pipes And Pints started on the road was the self taught bagpiper Vojta Kalina. He had dreamt of a band that would make Punk and Folk its home in equal measures with the idea of combining all the elements of good old fashioned Rock’n’Roll and Punk with the sound of some glorious Highland bagpipes. This combination served them well in the early days as they played all over Europe and at Europe’s biggest alternative music festivals. The pipes were an integral part of their sound and they were not just a punk band with a piper tacked onto them. Their first release, a Demo, back in 2007 took the punk rock sound to the extreme and won over legions of fans at home while their first single the self titled EP from the following year contained the track ‘City By The Sea’ (here) which went viral across the scene and, until The Rumjacks and their multi-multi-million viewed ‘An Irish Pub’, was one of the most watched Celtic-Punk videos on the internet. This set the scene for their debut album and they celebrated the release of Until We Die with a tour that took them across Europe, Russia and the UK for the next two years. This version of the band featured Californian Syco Mike on vocals who had scrapped plans to return home from Austria and moved to Prague with only his dog Tequila to his name just to join them.
The second album Found And Lost was recorded with well known Californian producer Darian Rundall (Pennywise/ US Bombs/ Suicidal Tendencies) and again the heavy sound of the band didn’t neglect Vojta’s bagpipes. Released towards the end of 2012 the album was very well received by both fans and critics alike winning many awards back home and universally applauded within the Celtic-Punk scene too. The years of touring took their toll and following some band changes including Mike moving back to the USA the group took a two year hiatus before returning. The first signs of life of the new Pipes And Pints was the release of a video for ‘Raise Our Flag’ in November 2017 and featured the new voice of the band in Travis O’Neill a singer/songwriter from County Sligo, Ireland who had washed up in Prague as a member of the, now defunct, 5 Foot Assassins. Incidentally Travis also performs as Travis O’Neill And His Cardinal Sins and are well worth checking out in their own right.
So this brings us slap bang up to date and the release last week of their third album The Second Chapter. Yeah I know it don’t make sense to me that either! It may be a new line up but have they still got the same passion and enthusiasm that made them so popular in the first place? Well the first thing I noticed is the sound of the band is much less Punk-Rock. In fact they could easily have been filed in the Hardcore section back in the day so the new melodic more folky sound was still a bit of a surprise despite the slow trickle of videos the band have put out in the run up to the album’s release. The Second Chapter begins with ‘A Million Times More’ and Vojta’s Highland bagpipes fill the airwaves as the band eventually join in and some class gang vocals before Travis takes over and while his vocal style is nothing like Mike its a new beginning from the band so no more comparisons. Travis vocals are strong and perfect for this Pipes And Pints sound. Chugging guitar and a catchy as hell chorus makes this a fantastic opener for the album and only sets the scene for the other nine tracks. Next up they leave you in no uncertainty that they are a Celtic-Punk band on ‘Raise Our Flag’ as they proclaim allegiance to Ireland
“you know I love this Green, White and Gold”
The song was the first that introduced fans of the band to the new line up and owes a lot to the crossover punk/metal influence of bands like AC/DC. Melodic and catchy and packed with Gaelic references and accompanied with a killer video that you must take the time to watch below. The pipes sail along neither dominating or dominated and it’s fantastic to have them back.
The majority of the songs hover around the three minute plus mark and give them plenty of chance to give full reign to exactly what they want. ‘Shadow On Your Wall’ is a slow rock ballad of a song that still comes across as heavy and gives Lukas a chance to shine with some excellent drumming alongside Ondra and Rafan on bass and guitar. ‘Rebel In My Veins’ speeds it up again with some great lyrics about taking the past and conquering it.
“Straight edge x’s on my hands
and old lovers names I don’t regret
Blood red roses, punk rock bands
all are memories we cant forget”
They keep the pace up with ‘Diamonds And Dreams’ a more traditional straight forward Punk-Rock song while ‘Dark Into The Night’ is the classic tale of a man who is left by the love of his life but finds redemption in the arms of his punk rock family. The song introduces us to something I thought I would never say and that is a Pipes And Pints country song! Of course it’s not straight up country and Travis on banjo gives it an extra buzz but the catchyness is still there and though I think that could have gone heavier with the sound it’s still a great tune.
‘Fist Of Defiance’ has more of that punk/metal crossover appeal while on the short ‘We Are The Scene’ they even chuck in a spot of Ska-Pop and a real positive message of acceptance as well.
“Some scenes are pretend, tattoos and t-shirts are a trend,
Stand with me and sing with us friends
we want you to join our celtic rock and roll family”
‘Karma Killer’ is an album standout for me and represents one of many diverse directions that the new Pipes And Pints take us in on The Second Chapter. Influenced by Rock’n’Roll here the pipes shine as the song keeps up a fast pace that show the progression of the band into what Votja says “is a cutting of ties to the past and taking destiny back in our hands”.
“No tear was dry, singing Fields of Athenry
Standing for what I lived and the days gone by
Eireanns soil beneath my fingernails
It don’t mean a thing unless you lived my life twice!”
A fantastic song and a bit of a warning the accompanying video is a bit … er … risque so watch at your own peril. The album ends with ‘Wait For You’ and we are back in rock ballad territory with the Pipes leading the way throughout a great ‘lighter/pint/fist in the air’ moment to bring down the curtain.
So a new direction for one of my favourite bands and do I approve? Well I loved the hardcore-Celtic-Punk sound of the early days of Pipes And Pints but on The Second Chapter they have managed to still convince me they are the same band. They may have replaced hardcore with a much more melodic base but have done it in a way that will not alienate old fans which is always the danger when a band goes in a new direction. It’s a cracker of an album that I have been playing solidly now for three days and show no sign of getting sick of! A fantastic return and will open many doors to them I am sure.
( You can stream the whole of The Second Chapter on the Bandcamp player below before you buy it that is! Its only $7!)