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The Dead Maggies are a folkpunk band from Tasmania.
Hear tragic tales set to a lively toe-tapping hoedown of music that will make you dance, yell and folk till you punk.
Now here’s another chance for me to wax lyrical about the quality of of music coming down to us from the heights of the Australian celtic/folk-punk scene. Regular readers know my views but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate them again every now and then so here we go. The best music in the world comes from the Australian celtic-punk scene of that there is no doubt. We have been fortunate enough in London to have hosted The Dead Maggies before and fellow Aussies The Rumjacks and The Go-Set have blazed their paths through London several times each leaving behind a ever growing army of fans each time they play.
They formed in Hobart on the day of Margaret Thatcher’s death when a bunch of punk and folk musicians were celebrating and started jamming songs accompanied by plenty of home brew. It wasn’t long after that they were up on stage playing with some of the biggest names in Australian celtic-punk. This EP is the third release from The Maggies and follows in the footsteps of their amazing debut mini-album The Dead Maggies Sing About Dead People.
Released in April, 2014 it’s a fantastic way to begin with seven original songs/stories that tell the tale of Tasmania in a way that not many bands could do. Tragic tales set to a toe-tapping lively folk punk hoedown. The above is a link to the re-issue that is the same except with added fiddle. After this release they toured Europe including a week long tour here that took them as far north as Scotland and as south as London where they fair set the TChances stage alight with a set that had the sweat dripping off the walls! They followed this up with their debut full length album Well Hanged in November, 2015. We ranted and raved about this LP and it even mad #7 in the 2015 London Celtic Punks Album Of The Year (here). We ended that review with these words that are worth repeating
“Twelve tracks that explore the lives, battles, deaths and loves of ordinary people. The people whose history is being written out of the books. The history children don’t learn at school. History that is an embarrassment to the people who rule us and who are scared stiff of the inspiration it could once again provide to the ancestors of the original folk these stories are written about. Music to dance to, love to, cry to and rejoice. The Dead Maggies provide all this in spades and by telling of the dark and oppressive past of Tasmania that history will never leave us. Bands like this should be an inspiration to us all in the celtic-punk scene. Story telling is at the very core of our music. We have a glorious past and if indeed our music has any connection to the past we are forced to retell it in song. Thanks to The Dead Maggies for doing that and doing it so well”
So then what they got to offer in 2017? Well the year started with discussions about a Dead Maggies follow up tour of England which is now definitely happening people (but more on that later!). So with the band busier than ever and looking forward to the rain they released Wild Dogs And Flannies last week on Tassie record label Folk ‘Til Ya Punk Records.
It would seem on Wild Dogs And Flannies they have taken a break from tales of convicts and bushrangers and given us five tracks that deal in the here and now. The EP begins with ‘When I Die’ and its heavy stuff but put to a great ‘cow-punk’ back beat. Starting off slowly before the band kick in and give it us in spades. The subject of assisted suicide is not yer typical celtic-punk fare but that’s exactly why the Aussie scene is so well loved by us all. Never afraid to take on serious subjects or open their hearts. They follow this up with another serious subject dealing with domestic violence on ‘She’. Released last November with all proceeds from the song going to Tassie group SHE (Support, Help, Empowerment).
“One day will come liberty
But for my children, I would die to be free”
I love The Dead Maggies for their raucousness and unabashed celebration of dark things and here they show they can still put out a tune that makes you think. Show your support for SHE by downloading this song here for just one Aussie dollar.
They keep up the serious theme of the EP with ‘Goodbye Gondwanaland’ a slow acoustic number telling of the dangers of the coming (or has it already arrived?) environmental disaster. A beautiful song again designed to make you think and given that GTMongrel has one of the most distinctive voices you will hear in any genre its an emotional song given that added depth by his wonderful vocals. Gondwanaland was one of the two ancient super continents from about 200 million years ago. ‘Wild Dogs And Foxes’ is classic Maggies beginning with acoustic guitar and fiddle before the tempo shifts and we are back in the celtic-hoe down territory that we love. The curtain comes down and they finish with a flourish and a light hearted fast paced track ‘All My Flannies Are Broken’ with the whole band having a go at vocals. A flannie is a Aussie term for them tartan button up long sleeve flannelette shirts. A lovely ditto about getting them ripped in the moshpit. A superb end to proceedings.
So there you have it. Another masterpiece from The Dead Maggies. Five songs that stretch what they do in every direction possible. This is a band that can really make you think and while that is not always what you want (lets face it music is an escape from the trials and tribulations of life) you could always instead switch off your brain and just enjoy the excellent music!
The Dead Maggies deserve to be massive and while they are half way there in Australia you will get a chance to check them out on these shores this summer. The dates of the tour are yet to be finalised but they are booked to play at Outcider festival on Sunday 6th August and Boomtown on Saturday the 12th. The inbetween bits are being sorted now and in there will be dates in London and Kingston (provisional dates are Thursday 10th and Friday 11th) so if you want to be kept up to date check out the London Celtic Punks Facebook page and subscribe to our Events here and we will see you at the bar!
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Since we last reviewed The Dead Maggies there has been an explosion in Aussie sites concentrating on Celtic/folk-punk. Well two anyway. So if you absolutely obsessed with the Australian scene like me do yourself a favour and head over there now.
Australia’s folk-punk troubadour!
Just a few days before we review the new EP from Tasmania’s premier folk-punk outfit The Dead Maggies and it’s more of the same with more Aussie fare from Benny Mayhem. Not a name known to us till recently it would seem that Benny has blessed Europe quite a few times before as both a solo artist and as the shirtless, writhing front man of kick-arse smart alec punk rock party band Project Mayhem. He tours as both solo and with a band and if plans go to plan he will return to England with both in 2017 while inbetween Benny will be studio-bound applying the finishing touches to his latest LP.
From his home base on the west coast of Australia in Perth, Benny Mayhem has toured the world as a wandering troubadour and in England has gone from busking outside tube stations to the festival circuit in only two years. The EP begins with the title song ‘Song For Absent Friends’ and is an ode to the multitude of people that have helped Benny on his journey’s around the globe delivering folk-punk to the masses. It was in the Fuelled By Cider Studio in Somerset that Benny realised the three original songs delivered here needed the backing of a full band to realise their full potential. Returning to Australia he set about mixing the songs and gathering the right musicians for the job.
“Now I’m sitting in my room,
Thinking of times I shared with you,
And I wouldn’t be me today…
If it wasn’t for you”
He wrote the opener in a hotel room in the Austrian Alps and its poppy’ness’ and Cali-punk style belie its snow laden roots! It may not have much in common musically with The Dead Maggies but the Aussies seem to have cornered the market in great song/story writing.
(acoustic version of the full band song on the EP)
Benny and his acoustic guitar start the show next with the amazing ‘Mother Nature Will Have Her Revenge On Old Fatty’. Great well thought and inspiring lyrics as well as a great sense of humour. Listening to this song especially you can tell it would have worked as just Benny and that guitar but the band takes it into a different territory and will I am sure open many more doors for him.
“You’ll watch the jungle close in
Just as it always has before…
And the waters will rise
Just as they always have before…”
‘Bulwer Street Waltz’ is next and again it’s mostly Benny and his guitar with minimal but crucial backing from the band. A tale of mis-spent youth that ends with the absolutely fantastic line
“We were glared at in clubs
But we didn’t care
My only regret is that I didn’t dance”
What a line. I love it.
Song For Absent Friends ends with a class acoustic version of the Stiff Little Fingers standout ‘Suspect Device’. Jake Burns spits the original out with real bile while Benny plays it much calmer. Perhaps taking inspiration from Anto Morra who did an amazing job with SLF’s ‘Wasted Life’ proving you can do an angry song without an angry voice (here) Benny nails it regardless.
“Inflammable material, planted in my head
It’s a suspect device that’s left two thousand dead”
You can file Benny Mayhem in the folk-punk section with fellow Aussies like The Rumjacks and The Go-Set but just don’t be expecting the same celtic fuelled raucousness of said bands but more hook laden, catchy and contemplative songs from an artist whose journey has only just started. Whether that journey will lead him away from his trademark folk-punk sound who can tell but wherever it does end up you can be sure Benny will be delivering it straight from his heart.
Will Tun And The Wasters carry on exactly where they left off except without Will Tun and with kind of a new name but still with plenty of that explosive folk’n’punk’n’ska rebel rocking they are renowned for!
We first heard of Will Tun And The Wasters a good few years back when I got a call out of the blue from someone begging me to let their band support The Dreadnoughts and The Lagan at Mannions in north London. They would even do it for free they were so desperate. Music to any music promoters ears so they were booked straight away. They arrived at the venue from universities from right across England and played a blinder, going down an absolute storm. Very young and enthusiastic, their energy was infectious as well as their music bringing with them equal doses of folk, celtic, punk and ska. Fast forward a few years and now mostly settled in Bristol they had become firm festival favourites as well as gigging and touring the length and breadth of these islands. Then all of a sudden vocalist Will Tun announced he was off. Nothing personal but it was time to get a proper job or something. Rather than agonise over what to call themselves they just dropped Will from their name and decided to just call themselves And The Wasters. I love it and think its genius!
Last year And The Wasters played the main stages at popular English festivals such as Bearded Theory and Boomtown Fair and also completed an extensive tour of Europe. Adding elements of Latin, dub and even jazz to their usual brand of folk, punk and ska played with accordion, trumpet and fiddle. So after a year of playing as And The Wasters this new 5 track E.P State of Repair is their first release post-Will Tun and stands up well next to their album release from September, 2015 The Anachronist’s Cookbook which came out not long before Will’s decision to leave the band.
The EP kick’s off with ‘Lions Share’ and this is proper what we use to call festival music. Catchy ska based music but with hints of something a bit more aggressive below. The trumpet is leading the way and the band gel fantastically well and it’s a grand start to proceedings. Jo’s accordion rears its head towards the end and if we thought they would be hampered by Will’s absence then we were wrong. Next is ‘Small Victories and it’s more of the same. Still catchy and music to get you on your feet.
They may have left their more overt celtic-punk/ folk-punk sound behind but it’s back with a vengeance on the re-cycling anthem ‘Reduce, Reuse, Rebel’ all being it smothered in a rather lovely ska beat with again some great trumpet playing. ‘Bound as One’ adds Balkan folk into the mixture and stirs it about. This band sure do catchy well before the EP wraps up with the slow ‘Intro Dub’. None of the rowdiness of before bit more of a head nodder this one!
The past few years have seen the band taking their feel good music out beyond the usual safe spaces bands normally go. This band would literally play anywhere they can so attached are they to the idea of DIY music. The idea that bands can do it all themselves without the need for managers, publicists or record deals. But don’t be thinking they are just some happy-go-lucky ska-punk band version of The Wurzels though. Their music is only matched by what they have to say. That attachment to DIY only echos their positive message of solidarity, friendship and collective action. The band live by their message and their beliefs, being active within the DIY music scene and by lending support to various good causes.
(have a listen to State Of Repair before downloading it for *FREE* below)
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Every year we have been doing this has got better and better for celtic-punk releases. As happy as we are that this is so it also means that we just cannot keep up with everything out there. We haven’t had the chance to review everything we received or heard so here is Part 2 of our 2016 Round Up where we catch up with some of the releases that we missed first time round. Here at 30492- LONDON CELTIC PUNKS blog we much prefer to do really detailed reviews but it has been impossible to keep up so here’s a few quick ones just to catch up and get 2016 out of the way. Each and every one are worthy of your time so go ahead and check them out. Last week we featured releases from the America’s (here) so this time we will try to fit in the entire rest of the world taking in Ireland, Indonesia, Germany, France and good auld Australia!
There is quite a strong and vibrant celtic-punk scene happening in France at the moment and by France I mean France and not Brittany which as you should know is a completely different country! One of these bands are Korrigan’s Celtic Rock who were formed in 2007 in Franche-Comté in eastern France and released their debut EP, Tournée Générale!, earlier this year. They take their name from the mythical creatures who were opposed to Christianity when the Apostles came to convert Brittany. The EP kicks off with a rocking start with tin whistle that AC/DC would be proud of. Next up is ‘Hypocrisie’ with more of a ska beat and the bombarde is introduced. I love the sound of this instrument and will be familiar to fans of the Breton legends Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs. They add bagpipes too into ‘Putain De…’ and this is my favourite track of the EP. The title track ends the EP and is straight up celtic-punk rock. A quarter of a hour well spent. These guys cover all the angles and we are destined to hear much more from them in 2017.
Mick Flannery comes from county Cork in the south of Ireland and funnily enough the artist he reminds me of the most is also from Cork, Cathal Coughlan of the excellent Microdisney/Fatima Mansions. This is Mick’s fifth album and the first I’ve heard properly. There may not be much here for the traditional celtic-punk fan except that if you love good music then you will also love this. From what I have read this album is much darker than his previous releases and the excellent Tom Wait-esque title track is based on the idea of class inequality and told as a poor man breaking into a rich man’s house. Dark and foreboding and downright bloody brilliant!
“Thought you heard something on the way home, was that a rustle, was that my belly rumblin?”
Elements of rap and dance music alongside the dark folk and even darker pop here and the songwriting is compelling and worthy of hearing just on it’s own. On ‘Cameo’ Mick’s famous introspection comes out.
“But if I’m so happy/ why do I lie awake at night?/ Why am I angry all the time?”
Though often found with an electric guitar its still very much based on folk melodies and the comparison to Bob Dylan and his change to electric guitar himself is not so odd.
“Imprisoned by our plight and desperate acts faith,
They enter battles in our name and battle cry our pain,
Just keep me sane and welcome my escape”
From backyard barbie to the biggest stages in Australia, Handsome Young Strangers play 100% colonial bush folk-punk !
The EP begins with the raging self-penned number ‘The Battle Of Broken Hill’ and it tells a very strange story indeed. As with most Aussie bands they dig deep into their countries rich and tragic history and come up with a real belter of a song that shows that the modern scourge of religion based terror attacks are not a new thing. Over 100 years ago at Broken Hill in New South Wales two Muslim men supposedly working for the Ottaman Empire opened fire on a train full of tourists. In the ensuing gun battle and subsequent siege four people were murdered and the killers themselves were shot down in a final dramatic shoot out. The Go-Set’s Lachlan McSwain guests on bagpipes and the song sounds not unlike the Rumjacks most folkier songs. A real thigh slapper and more than a touch of countryn’western all over this great opener.
I couldn’t figure how to group the songs together so though this would be the best way so read about the song and then play the song. Simple. Next up is ‘Mrs Jones’ a song written by one time Handsome Young Stranger Andrew ‘Fredo’ Donkin who sings vocals on the song. More of a rocky number with the folk instruments pushed to the back but still there. A nice bit of Hammond organ too, ably played by Michael Carpenter, who mastered the EP. A real catchy chorus here.
Now it don’t take a genius to suss out what ‘Poor Ned’ is about. I was brought up on folk stories about the great Ned Kelly. Being the son of Tipperary this Aussie outlaw featured quite high in my bedtime stories of him taking on the British army while helping the poor and needy and fighting back against anti-Catholic and anti-Irish discrimination rampant in the colony. If ever their was a symbol of Australian celtic-punk than itn is Ned Kelly.
“You know they took Ned Kelly
And they hung him in the Melbourne gaol
He fought so very bravely
Dressed in iron mail
And no man single-handed
Can hope to break the bars
It’s a thousand like Ned Kelly
Who’ll hoist the flag of stars”
Written by Trevor Lucas it was first recorded by Fothringay and released as a single and was used as title track of the Tony Richardson film Ned Kelly starring Mick Jagger. Also performed by Fairport Convention (here) and Adelaide 1970’s folk-punk band Red Gum (here) Handsome Young Strangers give it a real blast through. A really good version with the Strangers stamp all the way through.
The longest song on the EP follows with ‘I, Argonaut’ clocking in at over six minutes. Another self -penned number written by DrizoBone D it’s the slowest song on the EP though that doesn’t matter much in the world of celtic-punk.
‘Maxine’ follows and is a unusual cover of the New Zealand born singer-songwriter Sharon O’Neill (here) smash hit in Australia and NZ from 1983. The song tells the sad story of a prostitute in Kings Cross, the red light area of Sydney.
“Maxine, you’re not the only one
To take the whole world on
But no one’s ever won
Maxine, Case 1352
A red and green tattoo
Eyes cold steel blue”
Well done to the Bhoys for choosing such an unusual song and certainly not one I ever heard before. It’s played as a straight up rock number and fits in perfectly with the EP.
The EP ends with ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ and what exactly can you say about one of the most popular and recogniseable celtic songs ever written. The Waterboys track became a ‘classic’ a long long time ago and I’m sure has kept Mike Scott plenty warm in clover over the years. Here the Strangers keep pretty much to the blueprint but again add just enough to make it their own. Superb fiddle here which adds a touch of country to the celtic.
The Battle Of Broken Hill is the fourth release from the simply amazing Tasmanian record label ‘Folk ‘Til Ya Punk’ and is available in physical and digital formats as well as iTunes but before you give your hard earned to those tax dodging bastards please check out the record label’s store. They are wholly independent and I daresay run on a shoestring, but nobody is doing more at the moment to promote new music within the celtic-folk punk scene. A real labour of love!. Folk ‘Til Ya Punk will be going on to release their new album in early 2017 and I truly cannot wait to hear it.
Australiana (I love that word!) bushpunk stalwarts Handsome Young Strangers are an institution in the Sydney folk-punk scene and deservedly so too. Here they have delivered a quality EP of almost half an hour of great Aussie music. Seriously I’ve been reviwing LP’s all year with smaller running times than that! Six songs, three of their own and three well chosen and polished covers. It won’t surprise anyone to hear I loved this and that I’m sure anyone with the smallest appreciation for any of the bands mentioned will as well.
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Protest For Dummies is an unashamedly political album that doesn’t hector or bully or lecture but will make you laugh, cry, tap your foot and sing along.
Welcome one and all to the third studio album from one of London Celtic Punks favourite bands Steve White & The Protest Family. It’s been two years since the release of last LP, This Band’s Sick and it’s been a long two years for anyone of a socialist persuasion. The Tories election win, Brexit, Trump and the increasing scourge of the poison of identity politics have ravaged the left and has not seen us so seperated from the working class in decades. It’s hard to be left-wing at the moment and certainly there is no joy in being so… except that is for Steve White And The Protest Family! New release Protest For Dummies is that rare thing in left-wing circles. It’s a laugh and a bloody good one at that too. Growing up I use to hear this kind of music in the working men’s clubs around where I was born. Satirical folk music that was bawdy, risqué and near, and sometimes well over, the knuckle, most definitly not ‘PC’ but was also solid, full of pride and fiercly socialist. Those days are gone sadly and X Factor all but dominates, folk and punk music has gone soft and the real left are demoralised with the only possible ray of light being Jeremy Corbyn for all he’s worth. I’m as down as the rest are but soon as I slipped Protest For Dummies into the stereo I felt that fire burning up in me and by half way through I was ready for the picket line!
The album begins with ‘God Save The Queen’s Speech’ and your first impressions are of a Cockney rhyming away over some laid back acoustic folk and no drums! Yes they have no drummer. Never had and never will for as they announced on their debut album ‘Drums Ruin Everything’. Its all humorous and tongue in cheek on the surface but their’s an anger raging underneath.
“She lives in the biggest council house I’ve ever seen”
Next up is ‘Tag Team Time’ and if you’re looking for a wrestling metaphor involving Jeremy Corbyn that this is the one for you. ‘George Of The Jungle’ starts off with that much under used instrument in celtic-punk the harmonica. The song tells of Saint George, the patron Saint of England who was thought to be born in Syria on 23rd April 303 and imagines him being stuck in the Calais refugee centre, nicknamed the Jungle, trying to get out.
‘Cheer Up Mate’ brings out some electric guitar while trying to get us to blame the real enemy not some
“poor bloke running from the bombs”
while ‘Victoria Says’ namechecks some right-wing media commenters while taking the P out of UKIP parliamentary candidate Victoria Ayling who last year asked the question
“what happens when renewable energy runs out?”
‘Hardwork’ leaves the instruments behind and the band go it acapello with each band member sharing the singiong and instantly reminds me of Attila The Stockbroker. ‘IDS Land’ is about that most unpopular of Tory politicians Iain Duncan Smith. He’s the MP for Chingford and Woodford Green on the East fringe of London. Before him was Thatcher’s rottweiller Norman Tebbitt and before him Winston Churchill. It was also the birthplace of such notables as David Beckham, Carry On star Leslie Phillips and guitarist Steve Hillage and it’s also where The Kray twins are buried. hard to fathom how the people there could be conned into voting for these scumbags but their you go. Some more electric guitar and I get the feeling someone in the band is an old rocker! ‘None Of The Above’ is next and refers to the possibility of putting none of the above on the ballot paper at elections. One thing you can say about Protest For Dummies is that its all very lively and with Steve’s vocals as clear as a cockney bell it doesn’t matter there’s no lyrics included on the CD cover. These songs are very London-centric and close to the bands heart as they live on the eastern fringe of London themselves in Walthamstow. I use to work there and loved the area but slowly the yuppies are closing in. ‘Pop-Up Punx’ rips the piss out of that punk sacred cow Johnny Rotten among others. How the establishment is now getting into punk and the true conservative (little ‘c’ and big ‘C’) nature of the old time punks who are now trying to deny the things they once said (and never really) believed in. All a joke. I love ‘The Side Of The Fox’ as it’s one of the rockiest off the album. Fox hunting is still happening and Steve and his bandmates are on the side of the fox against the Cameron’s and the Clarkson’s of this country.
They turn their hands to a bit of blues-rock next with ‘Sniffin’ Gluten’ about those said yuppies that are on the march to E17 (Walthamstow’s post-code) to take over the shops and the close down the pubs. The album comes to an end with the sweary epic ‘A Song For Sonja’ with the words written by a dear friend and comrade of the band who died last year. That is not the end though as the real end comes shortly after with a song I fecking love and have been waiting for a reference to for the entire album. A little clue to what I mean can be found in the review we did of This Band Is Sick here.
And that is that. Twelve songs clocking in at forty-six minutes and right up their with their previous releases though I can’t help feeling that if they weren’t so concerned on getting their message across they could properly ROCK-OUT a bit. The lyrics are multi-layered in the same way a band like Half Man Half Biscuit’s are in that you may listen as close as you can but you’ll always discover a line you never heard before that will raise a smile or two. Musically they occupy the space that’s neither punk nor folk but at the same time both. Is it just for grizzled, working class, left-wingers who drink real ale and watch lower league (soon to be the top echelons of non-league perhaps…) football like me? Well yes and no. It could well be the soundtrack to our lives but if I thought that good music like this didn’t have the power to go beyond the converted then I think I would chuck my lot in with the X-Factorists and that must never happen!
(have a listen to Protest For Dummies below before you send them your fiver)
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A bunch of dirty cider drinkers with one goal. To make you jig and pissed!
With Matilda’s Scoundrels last EP released and reviewed (here) a few weeks ago here’s the only band in the celtic-punk scene here that keep up with them in term of releases, Mick O’Toole. We were suppose to review this a while ago when we ordered ten copies on sale or return but the buggers went on tour to Belguim and sold the lot so I’m reviewing this from the Bandcamp site! Well what to say… I don’t know what they are putting in the cider over in the west country but with this amount of productivity it’s making me think of switching from the ‘black stuff’ just to keep up!
Mick O’Toole got together back in 2012 in the deepest darkest Shire otherwise known as county Wiltshire in a town called Calne. Bored with heavy metal and with a new found love of Flogging Molly they decided to take a completely different route and get a celtic punk band together. Calling themselves Mick O’Toole after a character in a song from local celtic punk legends The Boys Of County Hell. Mick O’Toole’s sound is a irresistible blend of punk rock combined with traditional folk. Their first EP ‘Deep In Cider’ set the benchmark sky high but they managed to outdo even that with the release last year of ‘1665 Pitchfork Rebellion’. Going on to claim EP of the year at both Celtic Folk Punk And More (here) and here at London Celtic Punks as well (here) in the ‘Best Of 2015’ lists. Now with hundreds of gigs behind them including blowing down the house at the London Celtic Punks 2015 New Years Eve bash in Camden with Hungarian legends Firkin. They followed that up with the release of a single, ‘False Flag Collapse’. that featured the vocal talent of UK Sub Jamie Oliver and garnered rave reviews across the net and they continue despite the sad loss (all the best Guy) of various band members who couldn’t keep up.
All the songs on A Working Class Battalion are brand new and self penned by Mick O’Toole themselves and you really cannot ask for any more than that. The twenty minute CD kicks off with ‘Still In Cider’ and it never ceases to amaze how different Arron sounds singing then when you’re talking to him. I don’t mean in a Joe Strummer public schoolboy/west lahndoner kind of way but even with the bit of distortion added he sounds completely different. A completely different version from the one they released back in 2013 I guess they couldn’t resist the brilliant pun ion the title! It has everything that Mick O’Toole do so well. Catchy as feck arrangements and a chorus to murder someone for. The trademark O’Toole banjo is loud and proud and the Bhoys have produced a fantastic video to accompany the song.
Up next is ‘Boundaries’ and another one to add that short but ever growing lost of celtic-ska songs. Still with very much of a punky twist to it and this time its the mandolin that shines but always with Arron’s voice leading. ‘A Traitor Born’ follows and there is no let up here either. While some of the music may not be particularly fast it is heavy and those drums and those strings get pounded as hard as any punk rock band do. Wonderful chorus here with the band singing along. How’s this for a song title? ‘What Was Once A Solid Foundation Is Now A Collapsing Empire’. A bit of a mouthful and the fastest tune here. A riot of a tune with some classy stop and start moments that again has a great shouty chorus. This leads us nicely onto the last song, ‘As If It were To End’. The track here that ought to make them its superbly catchy and they’ve added some strings that sound brilliant. Altogether its twenty minutes of some of the best celtic-punk music you will hear and sure to feature high in all the end of year poll’s (including ours!!). They can’t seem to do no wrong at the moment and it’s to be admired that they have withstood the leaving of the old guard and continue to work so well with the new guys in the band.
As the band say themselves
“No egos, no divas just working class men having a good time”
They have that thing where they appeal to all. At their local gigs they play a combination of folk classics and their own material and it all goes down equally well. Whether they are performing with the Anti Nowhere League or playing ‘Dirty Old Town’ in their local boozer they have got something good going on and people want to hear it.
(have a listen to A Working Class Battalion by pressing play on the Bandcamp payer below)
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you can watch this interview we done with the O’Toole lads a while back here. there has been a bit of personnel change since then but explains well the history of the band and what they are still about.
Matilda’s Scoundrels gear up for their forthcoming new album later in the year by releasing yet another superb EP.
We return again to another new release from our friends Matilda’s Scoundrels. I have lost count of the number of their releases this year so pop along to their Bandcamp page, listed below, and have a look for yourself. Since forming in 2014, (doesn’t it seem longer?) in famed smugglers town Hastings on the south coast of England, the boys had built a solid reputation on the local gig scene but it is in the last year especially that they have began to bring their sound to festivals, bars, pubs and clubs across the UK with an ever increasing army of followers. Having played a bunch of festivals this year including Rebellion, Boomtown and Common Ground, as well as a bunch of tours that have taken them as far as Scotland to support Blood Or Whiskey. It was on one of these trips through the north that the Scoundrels popped into the Organworks Recording Studio in Leeds back in August and recorded a live session consisting of four tracks, two songs from previous EP’s, a cover and a brand new one.
The EP begins with ‘Beasts In Disguise’ which first saw the light of day last year on the EP of the same name. The production of that EP was a little rough and ready so great to hear it as was intended. Compared to that early version it shows a band with a lot more oompf. Quinn the singer has come on leaps and bounds and spits the words out with a confidence missing from their early recordings. Following is one of my favourite Scoundrels songs ‘Sinking In Their Sins’ which appeared on the split EP they also did last year with The Barracks.
(not the version featured here on this EP but you can hear that below)
Another class song with the band happy to punk it up a bit more than usual with Dan’s guitar a lot more evident. I was of course most interested in their new song and ‘Take This To The Streets’ does not disappoint. Jason kicks it off with his distinctive growl and acoustic guitar but its not too long before its all descended into familiar Matilda’s Scoundrels territory. A ever so slight country feel nestled in there among all the other influences. Soon Quinn joins in and the dual vocals work brilliant especially with Jen’s accordion backing. The final song here is a cover of Dutch punkers Black Volvo song ‘Rockers’. Having not heard the original I wasn’t sure what to expect but its in the same vein as ‘Pissheads Anthem’ and I’m sure regular fans will get what I mean. Fast and messy punk rock but still with that unmistakable Scoundrels sound.
(save £100 and have no negative effect on your local punk scene by watching the Scoundrels performance at this years Rebellion festival below)
The band have achieved something quite amazing. Within a few seconds of each song you know for sure its the Matilda’s Scoundrels so distinctive is their sound and so unlike anyone else I have heard. Hard work and touring can get you places but you need the tunes to go with it and the Scoundrels steady rise just goes to show that a band can make it within being arseholes or selling out or stepping on others to get there. It’s a story of success that has not ended yet and with an album due out fairly soon (the band are intending to play less gigs for a while so they can record it) that success shows no sign of ending yet.
(listen to the EP by pressing Play on the Bandcamp player below)
Buy The EP
Contact Matilda’s Scoundrels
“No business carried on in Hastings was more popular and extensive as that of smuggling. Defrauding the revenue, so far from being considered a crime, was looked upon as a laudable pursuit, and the most successful ‘runners’ were heroes. Nearly the whole of the inhabitants, old and young and of every station in life, were, to some extent, engaged in it”
by Vincent Mahon
Fresh from their triumphant London debut at the Gunners in Finsbury Park on Friday, Saturday finds the Cundeez saarf ov ver rivver at the Veg Bar in sunny Brixton as guests of the London Celtic Punks.
The Veg Bar is a vegan restaurant on Tulse Hill, just up from Brixton station. It’s a quiet, unassuming place and certainly not the sort of establishment generally considered home to the kind of mayhem and shenanigans associated with punk rock. However, there is a cellar bar. And that’s where the chaos ensues…
There’s other bands tonight, all of whom are good at what they do and some more to my taste than others. The stand outs for me were Comrade X, who always delivers the goods, and Black Water County, whose punk-infused folk may invite some obvious comparisons, but they play with enough talent and conviction to mark themselves out as contenders in their own right. I’d definitely be up for seeing them again.
By the time the Cundeez fire up, it’s hot in that little cellar bar. Damn hot. And there’s a pissed-up bunch of good natured yobbos and n’er do wells more than ready for them. The choice of London Calling as an opener is superb. It’s The Cundeez saying hello to their southern friends, and it’s an acknowledgement that wherever we’re from, we share similar tastes, backgrounds and experiences. And that’s what matters.
A Cundeez gig is a thing of great joy. Like a cross between a benevolent riot and the greatest party you’ve ever been invited to. Every song they play represents what’s great about punk rock when it’s done properly: energy, excitement, anger and humour are all present, wrapped up in killer tunes that hit you full-on and take no prisoners. What marks the Cundeez out from so many of their peers is that even when they are angry (“Austerity,” “Mr Politician” or the magnificently vitriolic “Yer Talkin’ Shite”), there is a sense of positivity and energy that’s sadly missing in so many other bands who generally seem content to just moan and wallow in it. There’s no room for negativity or despondency when the Cundeez are playing because you’re too busy having a bloody good time. Just watch them performing “Roota” and I defy you not to end up grinning from ear to ear and at the very least, tapping your foot.
Tonight’s crowd need no second bidding to get stuck in and show their appreciation by leaping around like a bunch of loons. The sweltering heat means “taps aaf” is pretty much obligatory. New single, “Rebellion” sounds incredible, and is a definite highlight in a flawless set. The Buzzcocks’ classic “Ever Fallen in Love…” is given a grand shake up, and by the time they hit “Night Boat to Cairo” everybody in the crowd is going ballistic. The energy and excitement this friendly bunch of Dundonians generate in one gig would be enough to power a small town.
And so the Cundeez came to London and it would be no exaggeration to say that they absolutely smashed it on both nights. For me personally, it meant I got to support a band I’ve been raving about for the last year, and see them twice in one weekend. That’s pretty good going as far as I’m concerned. Not only are they an amazing live band, but they’re also some of the nicest, most decent folk I’ve met on the punk scene. Gary, Stevie, Trotsky and Tez, you’re welcome back anytime. London loves the Cundeez. Keep it Oary!
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Kilburn Bomb Squad Facebook
Cheers and beers to Dissent, Kilburn Bomb Squad, Comrade X, Black Water County and The Cundeez. Absolutely spot on and all were just brilliant. Ta to The Sweat Box… sorry Veg Bar. I didn’t eat myself but was told the grub was fantastic, to the bar man didn’t catch yer name but you was a star and Assad thanks for the brilliant sound everyone was really happy with it. Hope to catch you at The Go Set on the 30th I hope. To Patrick and Peter who did the door. God bless you both.
Again thanks to you all we love and respect youse all. xx
Thanks to Vincent for the great review. He plays in another great London band worth checking out Morgellions so in the absence of any vid’s from the gig here’s one of them playing the night previous.
Their is a Facebook file with photos from the gig over at the London Celtic Punks page here.
Four piece accordion punk rock’n’roll out of Dorset…yarr!
Here we go again. I say that as we have been down this road many a time over the last few years I can tell you! I refer of course to that hot-bed of celtic-punk the South coast around Devon, Dorset and Cornwall throwing up yet another marvellous young band for us to slap our thighs and tap our toes to here at London Celtic Punks. Not sure what they are putting in the water down there but give me a pint of it! You would think that such a small scene such as ours would mean that any new bands would come to our attention straight away but still they occasionally slip us by and if not for fellow Dorseter’s Black Water County then Sinful Maggie they may still have sailed past unbeknown as well.
First things first though the band see themselves as a punk band and nothing else as Deano, Sinful Maggie drummer, said in conversation to me
“we try and avoid the Celtic punk ‘banner’ if you like. Really we see ourselves more as a punk band that opted for an accordion instead of another guitar. We’re not really influenced by folk or anything like that so we try and avoid it so people aren’t misled”
Still what ever label they want to attach themselves, or none, they are welcome into our little world any time they fancy it… just let us know!
Formed back in 2014 and based in the lovely seaside town of Bournemouth (the nicest beach I’ve ever been to!) in Dorset, Sinful Maggie come from a tradition of music as well as an attitude unique to those part’s of England and Cornwall. In Georgian times, the entire Dorset coast was a smuggling hot-spot and virtually completely lawless and those times and that attitude is still be celebrated as ever in song.
(most of Sinful Maggies set at Chaplin’s Cellar Bar, Boscombe July 2016)
1. Take Out The Sun 2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Prowess 3. Old Dog, New Tricks 4. Mr Know It All 5. Long Walk Home 6. St Mary (Rancid) 7. Shitfaced 8. Everyone I Need 9. Rebel Without A Cause 10. Did You Have A Nice Life Without Me? (Cock Sparrer)
Coming at you definitely on the more punkier side of the fence the EP begins with ‘Lost and Long Forgotten’ and sure enough from the very start its fast and furious punk rock but with the superb addition of the accordion. More than ably played by the wonderfully named Briony Ireland who also played in the now defunct Dorset band The Devil’s Rejects who raised the flag for celtic-punk in Dorset and though they gigged relentlessly around the South-coast never did get a fair crack of the whip around the country. This is something that Sinful Maggie are hoping to change and they are already looking for gig’s in London and further afield. Next up is ‘Nature of Man’ and the highlight of the EP for me. Still got the same punky attitude of the opener and slower without being slow. Great vocals from Charlie that are both clear and shouty and fit a song that bursts between pop-punk, ska and Rancid’ish’ punk but all the time with that great accordion out front. The EP ends with ‘Shitfaced’ and as you’d expect from the title its the most raucous of the three and an ode to our favourite subject here and they certainly don’t let us down. This is the one at gig’s that gets people onto their feet I’d bet. Absolutely superb. Again all the elements are there and Sinful Maggie manage to do it all without aping anyone else or harking back to the past.
Three songs and just over ten minutes of solid as feck hardcore folk-punk! The EP is a wee bit rough’n’ready and was recorded to give away to fans clambering for something to listen to. All the songs will be re-recorded and are set to feature on the bands forthcoming album later in the year. Sinful Maggie are a extremely welcome addition to the scene whatever it’s called! The EP is free to download so there is no reason at all not to take a chance and get it and then keep an eye on Sinful Maggie they may be popping up in a town near you very very soon.
Download The Single (for **FREE** remember)
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Now Comrade X has been around on the music scene a lot longer than any of us have been so we thought we’d give him a chance to fill us in (not literally!) and give us the benefit of his knowledge. Now there may be a small handful of people reading this who are not aware of your contribution to the world of alternative music so want to enlighten them? What started your interest in music and how long you been playing and what bands you been involved in up to now? I was 14 when the Pistols appeared on Bill Grundy and it just blew me away. Till that point I was wearing tank tops, Oxford Bags and DM’s and fancied myself as a boot boy with an aspiration to be a face on the Shed End at Chelsea. After Grundy I wanted to know more about these punks. I bought New Rose when it came out and that was that – but it was really the first Clash album that shifted everything for me. After that I bought a guitar out of a junk shop in Leatherhead and started rehearsing with my first band Discipline at the Cabin Club down on Longmead Estate in Epsom. That would have been some time in 1977. We had guitars that chopped your fingers off and 5 watt Woolworths’ practice amps – we were dire but a fire had been lit.
As I say you’ve been performing for a hell of a long time in bands and now as a solo act but it has been said (and I am in agreement) that being a solo artist is the hardest thing to do. Just yourself on the stage and nowhere to hide. What does it take to be a solo performer. I would say big nuts and a big ego but obviously that’s not right for everyone! Yep, nowhere to hide! That is a bit of a downside but on the upside there’s no one to row with other than yourself and the odd sound man who thinks that every solo artist with a guitar should sound like Cat Stevens.
What bands are you listening to at the moment? Do you follow celtic-punk at all. Any bands out of the scene that you like? I’ve already bigged up The Lagan, Matilda’s Scoundrels and Black Water County but I can add to that Mick O’Toole and of course the old troopers Neck who I’ve know since time began. I pick up loads of stuff from your recommendations from around the globe and I think that the Irish influenced punk/folk scene is healthy as fuck – cant wait to see the Cundeez down in Brixton as well.
There’s always been a big debate about celtic-punk and whether or not it is cultural appropriation and politically correct for non-Irish bands singing about the Irish getting pissed and fighting and pubs and what have you. Personally I love it. The idea of the likes of Indonesian or Brazilian bands getting into The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones after listening to the Dropkick Murphys. I mean its not like The Dubliners ever wrote a song about getting pissed is it? I think its just a case of snobbery but do you think it’s ok? I agree. I’m sick of being told what is and what isn’t acceptable and until everything is narrowed down to a tiny spec. I like covering Holy Spook by the Popes – “…I wrecked my life on whisky, bad wives, taking pills and cursing…”. That’s just the blues mate and it doesn’t belong to anyone. This “cultural appropriation” stuff is just more hand-wringing, liberal bollocks.
A fusion of Americana, folk, alternative and punk this Irish-American guy is a whole lot more than even this.
Now I didn’t quite get the music of Bryan McPherson straight away I must admit. My fellow founding member of the London Celtic Punks had spent a couple of years previous trying to indoctrinate me and although I did really like what he did I was far from thinking he was the genius I now consider him. This all changed one summer evening in Camden last year when I saw Bryan perform live in a shitty rock venue with the crappiest PA ever and a even crappier sound man. Suddenly it all clicked into place and he has been a solid feature on my stereo ever since. Bryan was born and raised on the mean streets of Dorchester, a blue collar working-class Irish-American Catholic neighbourhood in Boston, that was also home to half the members of the original Dropkick Murphys. He was inspired as a kid by the energy and angst of punk, as well as the lyrically driven American folk songs of the early 1960’s. His first gigs were on street corners, at house parties and subway stations in Boston’s inner city. In 2001 he burst onto the acoustic music scene but then Bryan took a break from performing to address some personal issues and vanished from the scene. Since his return he has played the length and breadth of North America and more recently further afield as a solo artist. This is powerful passionate, acoustic-punk from the heart.
I got the born again american blues blues blues blues.
Released on July 18th, 2016 and is performed and was written by the man himself Bryan MacPherson and recorded by Bryan Dobbs in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, California and mixed and mastered by Willy Samuels at Nutone in Pittsburgh California.
With just a guitar and a harmonica and a passionate and heartfelt and emotional and frail and powerful and uplifting voice. Bryan’s music can chill you to the very bone as he dissects American working class life. When those pampered and privileged members of the middle classes want to lecture us about so-called ‘white privilege’ then maybe they ought to have lived a moment in Bryan McPherson’s shoes. Just a moment. Street life, politics, addiction, the prison system, class war and discrimination litter the alleys of McPherson’s songs. Don’t despair though as amongst it all shining through are moments of beauty and clarity that are as beautiful as ever was committed to paper. The music of Bryan McPherson may not be an altogether fun roller coaster ride but you will get untold pleasure hearing it.
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Bandcamp (only $1!!)
Folk punk can get a bad rap. Out on the internet there are thousands of bad recordings of badly sung and badly played songs about Things That Are Bad (™). Songs that lack nuance, metaphor and melody. Then there was Erik Petersen. He was different, he was the master of crafting a song around an ancient melody, turning a phrase, and constructing a tale full of metaphor, life, death and everything in between. It breaks my heart to be writing an obituary for Erik, he was one of my heros, he was a friend, and above everything else he was a genius.
Erik was a long time player in the Philadelphia punk scene. His band The Orphans split up in 2000, but not before writing some amazing slices of hardcore (check out The Government Stole My Germs CD from their Raise The Youth anthology). Near the end of The Orphans, a shut down show might mean Erik grabbing an acoustic guitar and playing some unplugged songs instead. There is a show on Youtube from a veterans hall, a young Erik sits on a chair in the middle of a room of punks playing early versions of songs that would go on to be Mischief Brew. Erik, himself, had commented that this scratchy footage was the start of Mischief Brew.
Between The Orphans and Mischief Brew there was the Kettle Rebellion. The Kettle Rebellion was a tight three piece of Erik, Jon Foy on Bass and Chris Doc Kulp on drums. They played a style that could be described as Medieval Folk Punk, the kind of hardcore that you’d hear while you strolled through a renaissance fair. An eight track LP was recorded in 2002, but before it could be released, the master tapes were stolen and leaked to archaic MP3 sharing sight Soulseek. In response, Erik scrapped the project. Years later, he stumbled across a version of the master tapes and decided to put it out. In 2013, the Kettle Rebellion LP was finally released through Fistolo on Vinyl, and my own record label, Different Circle Records, on CD.
Erik and Mischief Brew were DIY to the core, and before going on with the story, I have to introduce Denise. Denise was Erik’s wife and partner in crime for over 20 years. Emails sent through to Fistolo would invariably be responded by Denise. She’s a wonderful small package of vibrancy, smiles and energy. There’s also the Pugs, a Mischief Brew article is not complete without bringing up the Pugs. The Petersens rehomed many pugs through the years, and they were a common feature at their American shows. Check out the early recording of Erik playing at a PunX Picnic and you’ll hear one of them, perhaps Garcia, yelping along to Erik’s genius. Up the Pugs.
In 2003, Erik released a split record with Robert Blake entitled Bellingham/Philadelphia, and also a more electric EP known as Bakenal. These were the start of the Mischief Brew sound that the underground world would associate with Petersen. It was on the Bakenal EP that the anthem “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell” first appeared, with it’s rally cry of “I am a leader but you will not follow me” providing the spit and sawdust that anarcho-folk had been looking for. Lyrics from this song would be sprayed across walls around the world, most prominently across the outer wall of the Squat-cum-Social-Centre Knoflook in Den Bosch, Netherlands. Footage of Erik standing on the bar at Knoflook (during their last Europe Tour in 2008) singing Jawbreaker’s Boxcar can be found on YouTube. It’s a moment of pure joy, and testament to how he could command a room with his guitar.
Mischief Brew had a few line-up changes through the years, finally settling on a three-piece core of Erik, Shawn St Clair on Bass and Erik’s brother Chris Petersen on drums. Occasionally they’d be joined by Kettle Rebellion’s drummer Doc on percussion and second guitar duties. They released albums infrequently, but at a pace that was slowly increasing in recent years. The initial full length, Smash The Windows, was released in 2005, with its smash the system electric folk punk featuring guest spots from Stza from Leftover Crack and Franz Nicolay (solo artist and past member of The Hold Steady). Featuring a reworked Kettle Rebellion track called A Liquor Never Brewed and a full band Roll Me Through The Gates of Hell, this is the place to start with Mischief Brew.
From there we got Songs from under the sink (an acoustic collection of ‘forgotten’ old songs), The Stone Operation (a European influenced carnaval of a record) and the latest This is Not For Children (their punk rock roots coming to the fore). In between there was a smattering of EPs, the greatest of these being Eriks side of Photographs from the Shoebox (a split with Joe Jack Talcum). On this EP, you will find Labour Day Massacre, one of the prime examples of Erik’s socially conscious political songwriting.
Mischief Brew played a lot of shows in America. From small cafes with acoustic guitars in front of a close crowd, to an audience of thousands at the NYC Bowery Ballroom with The Hold Steady. They toured Europe twice, the last time in 2008 and were about to start another visit here next week. Youtube is a library of live performances, but that only gives you an impression of what it was like to be there.
I’ll finish this with a story about the last time I saw Erik, Denise and Mischief Brew. I found myself living in Brooklyn in 2013 and feeling quite homesick. Mischief Brew had a show booked at a dive bar called Grand Victory which I had frequented a few times. I went along, expecting a small turn-out and to hear some of my favourite songs belted out. I hadn’t seen them since 2008 when they had played in Glasgow (on borrowed guitars due to a fuck-up by the airline), but soon bumped into Chris and Shawn as if it had been yesterday.
There must have been around 200 showing up to this bar show, DaysNDays and Absinth Rose supported, and it was life affirming. From opening with Children Play with Matches to the closing anarchy of Roll me Through the Gates of hell, I was sweaty, hoarse throated and absolutely elated. I headed to the merch desk to buy a vinyl copy of the Stone Operation, and when hearing my thick scottish accent, Denise automatically recognised who I was and the night truly started. I sat at the end of the bar, unending stream of whisky, with Erik, Denise, Shawn, Chris, Doc and Maria (Denise’s sister). They invited me back to Maria’s flat with them for more drinks and merriment. Erik and Shawn drove ahead with the gear and we stayed at the bar to finish our drinks.
By the time we arrived at Maria’s, Erik and Shawn were asleep on the sofas with three pugs dancing around the apartment. The rest of us stayed up a while in the kitchen, drank fruit flavoured beer, and I felt like I truly belonged. I went to sleep on the floor with a pillow that was given to me, but awoke with a blanket over me and a pug on my head. Once we were all awake, we sat around and chatted about life, music, and plans. We ordered burgers, ate, and bid our farewells as I ventured out in the hot Brooklyn sun. I’d lost a day, but gained a life time.
I’m sitting writing this in a flat in Paisley, Scotland, with my Mischief Brew T-shirt (bought at the show in Brooklyn), my “May All We Do Be All For Our Delight” tattoo on my arm, trying to comprehend where we go from here. Erik Petersen soundtracked my last 10 years, gave me inspiration for my own songwriting and journey, bonded me with some of my closest friends, and gave me something to strive towards. No Gods, No Masters, No Setlists.
Fair Well Good Fellow, the tape has slowed down, but the music won’t stop.
Find out more about Erik’s great legacy of songs and other work by following the links-
Friends of Erik have set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for his wife and family to help get them through all this without the added worry of funeral expenses and to help them get by in this tough time. All of the money raised will be given to his wife, Denise. The campaign can be found here so donate if you can and if you can’t then please share.
Thatcher may be gone but the people still need a voice and FOLK THE SYSTEM are back. They’re older, got less hair and slightly cleaner clothes but still folking angry!
Last year we received a CD in the post from deepest darkest Oxfordshire, otherwise known as the Cotswolds and here on this CD as just plain Wolds. Taking in parts of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Warwickshire and Worcestershire the word Wold comes from the old English meaning ‘forest’. It’s basically what is left of the English countryside and parts of it would rival anywhere in England as the most beautiful spots in the entire country.
Based in, and from, the old Oxfordshire town of Banbury Folk The System got together in the early 1990’s and toured the length and breadth of this island from the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall and played with all the folk-punk scene’s big hitters of the day before sadly, after years of drinking, dancing and general chaos, deciding to call it a day back in 1996. (The band have put their 1994 demo up for free download here if you want it!) The boys though remained good friends throughout the years and in 2013 all the original members of the band decided to give it another crack. 2014 saw Folk The System return to the stage for the first time in nearly 20 years and this brings us nicely up to date and the release of Unrest In The Wolds. The album is available on download and CD and the the CD comes with a 4 page booklet with the lyrics printed so small you’ll need a magnifying glass to read them!
Though the album came out last year we are finally getting around to reviewing it now due to two things. First off an unreliable mate who said he would write it and secondly I was planning to catch them live on home turf in Banbury supporting Ferocious Dog which I thought would help me write this. Well as they say better late than never and looking at their stall last weekend they still have a few copies of the album left so follow the link at the bottom to get your mitts on one.
Folk The System- ‘Witchfinder Generals’
Bringing together some tracks from the past with some new and unreleased material, the album is ten tracks that clock in at a very respectful forty minutes and just like their live set is over far far too early for my liking. The first impression you get from listening to the album is that their are no drums (they must be followers of the Steve White And The Protest Family philosophy that ‘Drums Ruin Everything’) only a bodhrán and that all the instruments are acoustic. Don’t be dismayed though celtic-punk fans they kick up a right storm and can easily be compared to early 80’s English anarcho-punk bands like The Mob or Zounds. The album begins with ‘Witchfinder Generals’ and its a very familiar Irish/English hybrid folk sound crossed with Simon’s punky vocals and hardcore lyrics about the social services and the power they wield. Starting off slowly it begins to build up and with some bitter and angry vocals its a great start to the album. Next up is ‘Civilisation’ and you may not think it but I found the bodhrán dominating here as the excellently played fiddle flies off the scale. Two songs in and I’m getting a sort of harder version of The Levellers here both musically and politically. Yeah they cover much the same ground as B-right-on’s favourites but I always found them a bit lame so it’s refreshing to hear the anger and passion I always found missing from The Levellers. ‘Lost Land’ again hits the spot with gang vocals and superb fiddling. ‘Death of a Nation’ follows much the same path with the whole band coming together even though the mix could have been a bit louder here. The next song is probably their most popular and if the band had a signature tune then I am sure it would be ‘Enviromentally Friendly’. It got the largest cheers live and also the most audience participation as the crowd sang along to the words about the hypocrites who tell us to recycle while continuing to ruin the environment themselves. Like those green charities who spend your hard earned on massive wages for their bosses or office furniture. Simon spits out the words with a bile that comes from truly believing in what your singing about. A very catchy fiddle tune accompanies this and for certain one of the standout tracks here. ‘To No End’ again hits you in the heart and brain and further confirms the album as one of the best I have heard this year. All the songs here are written by the band and the only instrumental is up next and called ‘Murphy’s Logic’ I suppose in tribute to its Irish sounding tune. While the album is, as I already said a hybrid of Irish and English tunes ‘Murphy’s Logic’ is unashamedly Irish and will leave you breathless as it swirls around you with the band combining on this the albums most trad song perfectly with the occasional shout from Simon it certainly gets the auld feet tapping. It featured on that old demo mentioned earlier and like an old wine has matured and got better with age. Following on and getting towards the end of the album ‘Street Corner People’ takes in the cuts on the National Health Services especially in regard to mental health. Again strong bodhrán and the introduction of tin whistle keep the song going at a healthy pace and at nearly five minutes is the longest on the album. ‘Vanity’ was my favourite song when they played live and here they are at their most anarcho-punk with a song about animal rights and animal liberation. Another song that has survived from that old demo from twenty two years ago and has only got better in time. Unrest In The Wolds come to a sad end with ‘Least You Deserve’ and Simon’s heartfelt vocals are never better. An extremely strong and dark end to the album that only leaves you wanting to listen to it all again.
Now after seeing them live and listening to this album I can tell you two things. They may be an acoustic band but they kick up more of a storm than most full on punk bands that I know. Loud and shouty but never preachy with a sound that may remind you of the aforementioned Levellers or more modern bands like Ferocious Dog and I suppose it is a familiar sound but don’t be misled into thinking theirs nothing original here. Folk The System far out date most of the bands in the scene so give them credit for coming up with it in the first place. While bands like The Levellers continue to garner the applause and pundits and sell out venues with their soppy mish-mash of hippyfied folk and punk its bands like Folk The System, and Ferocious Dog, that deserve to sweep them away as the passion here is more than most of The Levellers tie-dyed crowd could probably ever contemplate. The monster that was Thatcher may be gone but the evils of the system that spewed her out are still here and though they be a bit older and cleaner, and have less hair, Folk The System are still folking angry about it. Far be it for us to want to perpetuate the unfair system we are in bu let them remain so if it means they keep playing fantastic music like this.
Buy The Album
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Brummie gypsy pirate punk duo with Jock from GBH on guitar and Sam from Contempt on vocals and fiddle.
The Balsall Heathens are a two piece acoustic duo from Birmingham that have been going for a number of years, playing mainly at punk festivals, but have only just recently released their first record. Made up of Colin ‘Jock’ Blythe, founding member and guitarist/songwriter of punk legends G.B.H. and Sam who has played with countless bands in the past and is currently playing in The Alcohol Licks, Contempt, The Dollcanoes and Canar du Jour. Forming in 2007 and taking their name from Balsall an inner-city area of Birmingham in the West Midlands it is home to a diverse mix of working class people and is the location of the infamous Balti Triangle where the amount of curry houses is legendary enough to warrant its own name!
GBH were one of the wave of original English punk bands that came to be known as ‘UK82’ along with the likes of The Exploited, Discharge and The Varukers. Constantly touring all over the world GBH remain one of the most popular punk bands in existance and they have stayed loyal both to that UK82 sound and their legions of fans worldwide. Obviously this makes Balsall Heathens gigs pretty hard to organise especially with Sam’s busy schedule but their love of the music means they make the time and they actually play a lot more then you would think. Jock plays acoustic guitar and Sam plays fiddle and sings and they describe themselves as ‘gypsy pirate punk’ and began back in the day by playing purely upbeat cover versions of folk and country covers like ‘Whisky in the Jar’ and the ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia’. They began to write some of their own material and so we have the EP ‘Life’s Too Short’, their debut release on Violated Records.
Opening with ‘Whiskey In The Giro’ it’s a re-working of the Thin Lizzy/trad classic ‘Whisky in The Jar’ that I first heard on the B-side of an The Men They Couldn’t Hang single I think. A whopping six and a half minutes long. First impressions are of Sam’s strong female vocals and also her outstanding fiddle playing. Amazingly the song does not outstay its welcome despite its length. This is followed by ‘Life’s Too Short’ and it has a downright country feel to it while telling us to enjoy our lives and to cut the bullshit out as Lifes Too Short. Really enjoyed this track and again Sam’s fiddle is amazing in this anarchist hoedown. The instrumental ‘The River’ comes next and lasts pretty long, over five minutes, for a folk punk song and once again is a joy to listen to. Sounding very celtic its not a million miles away from what we are use to here. They get silly next up with the bluesy ‘Dogfood Blues’ with Jock proving that he can play a mean guitar while the last track ‘Get Jiggy With It’ is not a cover of the Will Smith single (how do I even know that?!?!) but a lovely country folk-punk romp that sped right up till the final second.
Recorded in Birmingham and released on Violated Records the EP lasts a decent twenty-five minutes and trots along at a fine auld pace. Needless to say their is nothing particularly groundbreaking but it’s a solid release and impressive that their is only the two of them playing here. The spirit of punk shines through as well as a sense of humour and a superb DIY attitude. They manage to capture the live sound of the band pretty well and it is live that The Balsall Heathens are at their best. Later this year they will be appearing at the Rude Festival in St. Louis, Missouri, the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool as well as touring mainland Europe as well. Currently writing some new material we can expect another release in the coming year so all being well we will be seeing a whole lot more of the Balsall Heathens.
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“I am a turmut hoer, from Wiltshire I were born. Me parents they be workin’ folk. The fly be on me turmut”
“Pass round the jug and take a supp, Cutler’s name drifts into the night.Nought could compare with this pasty we share – the souls of the West join the light”
A cover of the sea shanty ‘Eddystone Light’ is up next. Made famous by Scots folk band The Weavers the song is about the lighthouse in Eddystone which kept ships from washing up and wrecking on the dangerous Eddystone Rocks, nine miles south of Rame Head.
“From this union there came three, A porpoise and a porgy and the other was me”
“Gert = Big. Body = person. Axed = Asked. Batch – an areal of rough land. Ee = you. Queer – unexplainable. Shepton Mallet Races – Mid Somerset cider making town. Vleshy = fat. Vlat Voot – flat foot. Ar – Yes”
“If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong”
(you can have a sneaky listen to ‘Awake The West’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below then afterwards for just a measly fiver you can own it by following the link!)
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Quality celtic folk punk from the smugglers cove of Hastings.
One of the highlights of 2015 was the emergence of a couple of bands who have gone on to become both solid fixtures not only on the celtic-punk scene but also on the wider alternative/punk scene also. I am talking of course about the mighty Mick O’Toole and, the band I am reviewing today, Matilda’s Scoundrels. It seems only five minutes since I was reviewing their last release, the split CD EP with The Barracks, in December. That went down an absolute storm among various punk media and has seen the bands profile rise considerably. Performances at this years Manchester Punk Festival and a short northern tour ending with a support slot to Blood Or Whiskey in Scotland are just the tip of the iceberg and the bands weekends have been spent traversing around England with guitars and tin whistle in hand!
Matilda’s Scoundrels formed in 2014 and the boys have been building a solid reputation on the south coast gig scene over the last couple of years and have began to bring their sound to festivals, bars, pubs and clubs across the UK with an ever increasing army of followers. Later this year they will perform at Rebellion, Boomtown and Common Ground festivals so plenty of chances for you to check them out. The boys hail from Hastings on the south coast of England. An area once famed for its pirates and smuggling links back in the 1800’s. As one native of the town commented
“No business carried on in Hastings was more popular and extensive as that of smuggling. Defrauding the revenue, so far from being considered a crime, was looked upon as a laudable pursuit, and the most successful ‘runners’ were heroes. Nearly the whole of the inhabitants, old and young and of every station in life, were, to some extent, engaged in it”
The smugglers of Hastings had an ugly reputation. They earned the nickname ‘Chop-backs’ after one of them split the spine of a Dutch sea captain! So in a town steeped in tradition the emergence of Matilda’s Scoundrels is not such a shock and their town’s history looms large in everything that they do. They recently became the first band to play on the newly rebuilt Hastings Pier after the original burned down in 2010.
So it is then that Matilda’s Scoundrels have delved deep into their towns history again here and written a song ‘Crowleys Curse’ dedicated to one of Hastings most infamous residents, Aleister Crowley aka The Great Beast. Born to a wealthy family (as so many of these type of characters usually are!) he was made notorious in the popular press for his interest in astrology, Satanism and the practice of ‘sex magick’ and other supposedly shocking occult activities. He died in Hastings on 1 December 1947 aged 72 and is, no doubt, looking up and chuckling away at this song in his honour. The curse mentioned in the song is the local legend that Crowley cursed Hastings. The curse means that anyone who has ever lived there will always live there. Famous when I was a child for the Battle Of Hastings when in 1066 King Harold II was defeated by the Norman forces of William the Conqueror in a battle that would shape the future of England for centuries to come. Sadly, recently though the town has become more famous for the social problems the residents face. High drug addition and crime rates had turned the town into a regular feature on ‘poverty porn’ TV programmes. Of course the councils answer to this is to try and gentrify and opening up a art house cinema or selling croissants instead of candy floss on the new pier are not going to help anyone. Still things are improving and a healthy community spirit is developing and as usual the best way to improve things in your community is for that community to do it themselves.
Blending traditional punk instruments with accordion, mandolin, tin whistle and gravelly vocals Matilda’s Scoundrels have again hit the heights and when I described that Split EP as their best release to date I find myself saying it again now! Quinn’s vocals and Jason’s whistle start the song before the rest of the lads join in and even if I can’t see the council adopting it as the towns anthem it ought to be.
“The great beast proved a popular addition to the lonesome town without submission as darkness fell so he woke in the old town of Hastings.
A rancid smell from a molasses pipe sex drive down with all his might lightning strikes into the night in the old town of Hastings”
Slower than usual but unmistakeable Scoundrels. I was lucky enough to see the band play it live for the first time and it has grown on me ever since. They follow this up on side B (remember this is vinyl!) with another live favourite ‘Pissheads Anthem’. A lot faster and plenty of sweary gang vocals and “Hey!” shouts.
“Give me whiskey, give me beer, Get me drunk as fuck and just leave me here”
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FromTheBand (pre-order. official release date- June 10, 2016)