Category Archives: London

ALBUM REVIEW: ANTO MORRA- ‘From The Vaults’ (2017)

London Irish Folk Punk

Somewhere between the Pogues and Ian Dury with perhaps a dash of Madness.

He’s back. Guess whose back? Aye it’s the all round Mr. Nice Guy Anto Morra to sort the English folk scene right out! Even more prolific than Matilda’s Scoundrels Anto presents his new album that came out at the arse end of last year giving us no time to get a review in so with things a little quiet on the celtic-punk scene it’s a perfect opportunity to revisit this great album and give it the review it deserves.

This is not quite a new album though it’s more of a concept album. Offered some free time at a recording studio near his adopted home in Norfolk he decided to revisit some of his older works that were either never recorded or recorded in bands that he was previously in. Having laid down the bones of this album on a hot summers day in July Anto realised this would be a fantastic opportunity to bring in some of his ex and present band mates and also some of the talented musicians that he had hooked up with since the start of his solo career. The songs here were all written between 1986 and 1996 during a time when Anto says

“my only ambitions were to have as much sex, drugs and rock’n’roll as a young man could handle”

Sadly three of Anto’s close friends passed during the time when he began recording From The Vaults to it’s finish. A strange coincidence was that they all had birthdays on the 19th the month, different months and different years so in tribute to them the album was released on the 19th December.

Regular readers will need no introduction as he has featured on these pages numerous times due to his more than abundant releases! Just in case though we’ll give you a wee run down before the review starts. Born Anthony Morrissey and raised in London by Irish parents, his formative years were as a punk rocker floating from band to band and dole cheque to dole cheque in Thatcher’s Britain. His Irish background provides the backbone for much of his music and focuses on the confusion of being brought up between two cultures that were so opposed to each other. Old animosities are thawing but the relationship remains an uneasy one. Flitting from punk band to band during these years he eventually washed up in the Norfolk countryside and he began to further explore his roots with Whirligig, a four-piece ceilidh dance Band. In 2013 he left the band after ten years deciding to concentrate on songwriting and solo performances.

Anto

From The Vaults is another of Anto trademark releases with a huge booklet packed with photos and information on all the songs including a very lovely mention of yours truly that I was very touched by (thanks Anto). The album is fifteen songs and as usual he has squeezed as much as possible in. Coming with a cover painted again by famed London Irish artist Brian Whelan (check out his wonderful art here). We kick of with ‘Lifting The Lid’ which sees Anto reminisce about his Catholic Irish background and the realisation that it wasn’t as restrictive and as he thought it was when he was young. Something that comes to most people of Irish backgrounds when they grow up I think. As stated it’s not just Anto here and to read out the list of collaborators would take up a whole page so suffice to say the backing he receives here is absolutely terrific and lifts the album into the premier league! ‘Bomb Alert’ looks back to the early 90’s a time when the Gulf War lit up our TV’s and the Boys were still blowing up parts of London. ‘Tall Story’ is my favourite track here a catchy upbeat punky number from his days as vocalist in indie-punk band Fountain Head in the mid-90’s. Anto gives his voice a good work out next in ‘Martyr’ with a tale living in a bedsit and seeing fellow members of the underclass finding themselves deeper and deeper in poverty. Acoustic guitar backed by mandolin as Anto gives us it straight from the heart, as he always does, while backed on vocals by his Mrs Julie. The song goes straight into ‘Dance’ and fiddle comes into play and the oldest song featured here at over twenty-five years old! Anto thinks its a bit Jimi Hendrix you’ll have to make up your own minds on that. 90’s insomniac plagued sleepless nights inspired ‘Fugitive’ based around the TV show of the same night fiddle, flute and banjo manage not to sound Celtic somehow! ‘Better Place’ and ‘High In The Night’ both tell the highly personal stories mental health and drug issues but done with panache and a lot of style. ‘Crazy Chris K-Hole Glasto’ is the only song on the album written this century and is about a trip to Glastonbury festival with his auld London Irish mate Chris. To K-Hole is to hallucinate while on drugs and sadly Chris was one of the friends who passed away during production of From The Vaults whilst battling addiction.

” His brutal honesty and wit made him such great company and fun to be around”.

A fantastic tribute to him which features Chris having a ‘episode’ outside Anto’s tent while he recorded him on a wee tape deck. RIP Chris. ‘Dragon Hide Away’ is slow and mournful just how a song with accordion should be.

There’s even brass out for ‘Changeless Angel’ a story of a burlesque dancer with a happy ending for a change. We in for some more heartbreak next with ‘Youre Not Here (Sadder Than Asda)’ from 1992 about a particularly tough relationship break-up. Most men can relate to the words here but as Anto says on the album notes “strange how returning to the song could become such a positive joy”.

Time is a great healer it is true. Just Anto and Kerry Selwin on piano it ends on a perfect bittersweet note as Anto sings the chorus repeating “You’re not here” until the final words “Thank the Lord!”. Typical Anto! ‘Wrecked On Love’ tells of the cycle of relationships we find ourselves on until we find the ‘one’. We coming rolling up towards the end and ‘Happy Ending’ is dedicated to all the musical geniuses that left before their time. Written on hearing the news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide Anto is backed here by John and Thim from Anto’s current collaborators in the folk-punk band The Punkfolkers. In the main its been a reflective album, obviously, but the curtain comes down with ‘Seen It All’ and a song to send you off into the dark with a wry smile and a bursting heart. The kind of song where the words will pop into your head at some random point and make you smile.

Yet another hit from one of the nicest people in celtic-punk and while this release is missing much of the trademark humour that has made Anto so popular and well received his warmth still spills over from the CD into us. A wordsmith and a modern day seanchaí his words have a sincerity about them that would make many so called artists weep in jealousy! That he can both keep up the output and the quality of his releases is outstanding and we have been promised another album soon in The Punkfolkers release Night Bus To Tombland. Forty years of protest, rebellion and punk and with records like this we can look forward to another forty as well!

Dedicated to

Chris McCormack * John (Ribsy) Vick * Tom Paley

Buy From The Vaults

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Contact Anto Morra

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(‘The Blacksmith’ from the recent Folkpunkers single )

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THE UNHOLY TRINITY- SHANE MacGOWAN, MARK E. SMITH AND NICK CAVE

We were saddened to hear about the death of Mark E.Smith grumpy front man of the influential Manchester post-punk band The Fall. So seems an apt time to remember the time, back in February 1989, that the British music paper the NME sent two of its journalists, James Brown and Sean O’Hagan, to the boozer with three of music’s wisest (and wildest) men- Shane MacGowan, Mark E.Smith and Nick Cave… and gave them all £10 each to have a drink!

It’s not often that we mere mortals find out what the personalities of our heroes are but in this interview we can almost see them lapping it up in the lounge bar down the Montague. Nick Cave keeps his cool and his answers short and sweet, maybe down to him being the only sober one there perhaps (he had just spent seven weeks in rehab), while Shane (“… done some Ecstasy and had drunk a bottle of whisky on the way down”) is the amiable drinking companion we would always assume he would be dipping in and out and taking the piss in between bouts of seriousness. Finally Mark, at times abusive and hostile and others friendly and warm. His views were certainly militant but maybe not in the way many would like them to be but no denying the influence he had inspiring a generation of musicians from Sonic Youth to The Pixies and beyond. I had the pleasure of meeting him once in a pub in Sheffield around 1988 and he was as sound as you could expect a music hero to be when you’re a awed teenager. With more than thirty album’s and more band members than you could ever possibly keep up with The Fall didn’t make it easy to follow them but there were always Mark E.Smith steering them and always around but no more now. He will be missed.

“a kind of Northern English magic realism that mixed industrial grime with the unearthly and uncanny, voiced through a unique, one-note delivery somewhere between amphetamine-spiked rant and alcohol-addled yarn.

FEBRUARY 25th 1989. NME TALKS TO

“So the NME thinks we’re the last three heroes of rock’n’roll, do they?” laughs Nick Cave. “Smarmy fuckers,” adds Shane McGowan, “what they actually mean is that we’re the three biggest brain damaged cases in rock’n’roll.”

“Apart from Nick”, jabs Mark Smith, “Nick’s cleaned up.”
“yeah”, drawls Cave, “my brains restored itself.”

A bottle’s throw from Millwall FC, The Montague Arms, a mock Gothic fun pub for morbid tourists, plays host to a bizarre summit meeting. Amidst stuffed horses’ heads, skeletons on bicycles and mocked up corpses, three of contemporary music’s most infamous individuals are gathered at the NME’s request.

Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, Mark E.Smith of the Fall and Nick Cave all share an outsider’s attitude that informs their respective musical output. Both championed and castigated for their obsessiveness and extremism, this unholy trio are dogged by reputations that precede them.

That they agreed to such a meeting is surprising. What ensues is inspired and insane by turns. The fractured and, often fractious, conversation sprawls between the amiable and the aggressive- Presley to Nietzsche, songwriting to psychology, football to fanatics.

In an afternoon of sheer psychotic hellishness, Cave plays the diplomat to Smith’s bursts of contentious rhetoric whilst MacGowan transmits his thoughts from his own singular, rarefied wavelength.

WHAT REALLY WENT ON THERE ? WE ONLY HAVE THIS EXCERPT

NME Do you think it’s accurate to describe the three of you as outsiders?
NC “I think we have all tended to create some kind of area where we can work without particularly having to worry about what’s fashionable.”
MES “Yes, fair enough. But I think there’s a lot of differences in this trio here. Nick was very rock’n’roll to me but he’s turned his back on it which was cool. Shane’s more, I dunno. To me the Pogues are the good bits from the Irish showband scene, like the Indians. You had that feel, probably lost that now. Your work’s good though.”
SM “Fuck it man. Who wants to work in a place where there’s all these people looking at you ?”
MES “Are you talking about your gigs ? You should stop doing them, then.”
SM “Can’t afford to.”
MES “Fuck it, you could fight not to if you don’t like it.”
SM “…and leave the rest of them in the lurch ?”
MES “Nah, the rest of your band will always complain about not working. If you’re paying them a wage tell them to stay at home and behave themselves.”
SM “It’s a democracy our band.”
MES “Why aren’t they here with you then ?”
SM “Cos the NME didn’t want to interview them.”
MES ‘Cos nobody’d recognise them.”
SM “That’s it ! They want to interview us because we’ve got distinctive characteristics. They just want to interview three high-brow loonies.”
MES “In that case you should have brought your mate Joe Strummer along.”
SM “I said high-brow loonies.”

HITS AND MYTHS

NME You must be aware that, consciously or otherwise, you’ve each created a particular myth that has arisen, in part, from your songs.
SM “Nobody created my mythology, I certainly didn’t.”
NC “No, you (the press) created it.”

SM “The media has a lot to answer for, you’re all a bunch of bastards however friendly you are.”
NC “Let’s not talk about the media. Why the hell are you talking about mythologies ? That tends to suggest it’s somehow unreal.”
SM “It seems to me that in your songs, Nick, you’re doing a Jung-style trip of examining your shadow, all the dark things you don’t want to be. A lot of your songs are like trips into the subconscious and are therefore nightmarish.”
NC “Possibly.”
SM “You’re exploring the world through the subconscious. I’ve done that on occasions for various reasons, whether it be illness or self abuse, or whatever. Once things start to look grotesque I don’t write them or sing them. I couldn’t write them the way you do, I couldn’t-making nightmares into living daylight…”
NC “I think you do a pretty good job of it in some of your songs.”
SM “The minute it gets dark I shoot back, retreat. I haven;’t always but I do now ‘cos…”
MES “Don’t give too much away Shane, don’t tell them. Hold a bit back.”
SM “I haven’t told them anything yet.”

NME “How do each of you approach the actual mechanics of songwriting ?”
MES “When you ask that you induce fear in a songwriter. I just go blank.”
NC “It’s not a cut and dried process.”
SM “For a start I’ve got to be out of my head to write. For a lot of the time it’s automatic writing. ‘Rainy day in Soho’ was automatic.”
MES “Its gotta be subconscious and off the wall. He says he’s got to be out of his head, and a lot of the time I have too. Sometimes, I just wake up and do it. It’s one of the hardest questions you ever get asked. For instance, you sometimes hear things that would make a great idea for a song but you never carry them out.”
SM “I do. Like the “Turkish Song of the Damned” was a Kraut trying to tell me something and I misheard him. He said, “Have you heard ‘The Turkish Song’ by the Damned”. Then I woke up.
MES “My German song’s better than your yours, I bet. This is like one of those night-time discussions on Channel 4.”
NC “I write songs in batches then record them and then can’t write again for ages. I try and build one song upon another, they may not look obviously inter-related but often one song acts as a springboard into another.”
SM “You haven’t been back to the swamps for a while, have you ?”
NC “The swamps ? Heh,heh. I’ve written a novel about that.”
MES “Nick thinks a novel’s two pages long. Very novel, heh, heh.”
NC “What’s it called ?”
MES “It’s called ‘It’ll Be Ready in Another Five Years’. You should write more aggressive songs, Nick, you’re getting too slow.”
NC “I haven’t sat down and thought about the mood before I wrote them.”
MES “I find your work almost English Lit oriented, like Beckett, things crop up again and again.”
NC “And your songs are very deceptive Mark, in the way they’re sung. They might appear at times like streams of consciousness but that’s deceptive.”
MES “One thing that eally annoys me is that stream of consciousness thing. I wouldn’t let on to it normally, but it annoys the shit out of me. I put a lot of hard sweat into them, I think about them. They have an inner logic to me so I don’t really care who understands them or not. I see writing and singing as two very different things. My attitude is if you can’t deliver it like a garage band, fuck it. That’s one thing that’s never been explored, delivering complex things in a very straightforward rock’n’roll way. My old excuse is if I’d wanted to be a poet, I’d have been a poet.”
SM “And starved.”
MES “I can write, boy, I can write. That’s what I do. People like you sit around moaning about the state of pop music…The trouble is it’s too bloody easy for people, that’s why music is in the sorry state it is. Any idiot, actors mainly, can go in there, sing a chord, bang on a machine…I’m not objecting to that but when people get at me for trying to say something in a rock’n’roll mode it’s as if I’m a freak.”
SM “All this talk about the state of music, rock’n’roll, Irish music, soul, funk.”
MES “Salsa.”
SM “Its been proved by Acid House that anyone can make a record.”
MES “We’re not thick, we all know that.”
SM “Look, I’m talking about the implications of Acid House”
MES “There’s nothing new in Acid House for me, pal. I’ve been using that process for years. Bloody years. It might be new for you but don’t assume it’s new for anyone else, because you’re fucking wrong, pal.
SM “What the fuck are you talking about ? Have you made an Acid House record ?
MES “It’s the same process, right. Have you had some sort of bloody revelation about Acid House ?”
SM “Hah ! It’s obvious if you listen they put Eastern melodies over it, bits of this and that…”
MES “That’s what music should always have been like.”
SM “It always was.”
MES “Why haven’t you been doing it for years then pal ?”
NC “I think they have been doing it. I’ve heard zithers and so on. Eastern stuff and Turkish stuff.”
MES “We had jazz arrangements in ’82 when the rest of those tossers were playing cocktail lounge music and fucking pseudo new wave, so don’t talk to me about it because I know what I’m talking about pal.”
SM “Fucking hell, what’s he on about ?”

CONTAINER DRIVERS

MES “The trouble with the music biz is that its become so bourgeois. A middle class executive business like the police force.”
SM “A middle class executive police force ? You must be mad ! They’re stormtroopers nowadays, thicker than they ever were.”
MES “Can we drop the cop talk ? It’s the same with everything else, like lurries…” SM “Lurries ? What are lurries ?”
MES “Lurries. Containers that deliver your fucking food to your fucking house, alright ?”
SM “Lorries ! Yeah right.”
MES “The drivers are paid the lowest wages because everyone wants to sit in the office and be a ponce. You can’t just go into a hotel and write your name, you’ve got to fuck around on a bloody computer. Nobody wants to work anymore.”
SM “Oh God ! You make me wanna puke sometimes, you do. Of course nobody wants to work. Who in their right mind wants to work ?”
MES “Alright, alright, that’s obvious, the sky’s fucking blue. Soccer’s the same. None of the fuckers want to hit the ball in the back of the net. They’re all too fucking muscley. And thick. Running up and down the field like bloody morons. The England team are all bloody minor executives who can’t kick the ball in the back of the net, can’t do the bloody job they’re hired to do. I do loads of gigs, that’s my job to play loads of gigs, I’m not an executive, I don’t mind playing in front of a load of sweaty people.”

NME “Do you two still enjoy playing live ?”
NC “I don’t know if I do. The first Kilburn show was a nightmare.”
MES “What’s new with The Bad Seeds ?”
NC “I used to hate playing live totally, just the whole physical exhaustion was too much for me.”
MES “Bleeding workshy Australian. Australians never do any work.”
NC “The last tour, going on stage was a release.”
MES “Sexually ?”
NC “As my life gets more constipated and cramped going on stage I’m able to purge myself in some way.”
MES “A bowel release.”
NC “I feel more relaxed.”
MES “With Mick Harvey behnd you with the vaseline.”
NC “Put a muzzle on this guy.”
SM “The gigs I enjoy are the ones where I am so angry and paranoid, and I hate the audience so much, that I put everything into it to feed off the aggressive side of it. I don’t actually hate the fans but when I’m feeling angry, pissed off and full of hate, it’s a good gig for me.”
NC “An audience is the perfect thing to unleash that hate and venom on. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you hate everyone in the audience but when you’ve got a so-called adoring mass in front of you, it’s a perfect target for that kind of disgust. Sometimes you find yourself in a position where you’re venting your disgust on an audience and a lot of them keep coming back because they actually like that aspect. In a way that diffuses the feeling and you don’t get the same release.”
MES “You gotta reassess your audience, make sure they aren’t just coming to throw ashtrays at your head for fun. Shane says he goes on full of twist, you’ve got to. If you don’t you’re fucking fucked, that’s whats wrong with a lot of acts these days, they do fucking yoga before and go on all fucking relaxed. I’ve been with Fad Gadget and he was doing incense and headstands. The English soccer players could do with a lot of twist, they should be put in a room and made to go round in circles, and told “if you don’t do a good gig tonight then you’re not getting paid.”

NME “Shane, you obviously don’t enjoy playing live anymore, is that through being on the road too much ?”
SM “I feel like I’ve spent the last five years of my life on the road. It hasn’t affected my songs but it has probably affected everything else about me. Obviously, the more you travel, the wilder the things that keep happening to you, the more likely it is that complete strangers will knock on your hotel room door.”
MES “Nick and I don’t related to that ‘cos the people who come up to us either hate our guts or wouldn’t really want to be alone in a room with us. You’re a very amiable guy, Shane.”
NC “I’m not sure what you’re talking about here but the way people related to me in the dressing rooms and so on was incredibly aggressive. They know every record and they seem to think they should nudge me or bump into me as they go past.It was this incredible performance that used to amuse me. I think we share something in common on that level ‘cos, like, in the early days, people were drawn towards us like they’d be drawn towards a car smash…”
SM “I read about the fan mail that Freddie Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies gets-real sicko stuff, loads of letters from genuine corpse freaks and child killer types. It frightens him shitless. That sorta thing freaks me out.”
NC “There is a definite relationship between that fanaticism and the fact that, as a performer, you expose more of yourself, of the undercurrents of your personality. Most rock personalities subdue that or chose not to explore it.”

“It’s rare when a group comes along that has any real soul to them.” (Cave)

HEROES AND VILLAINS

NME “Mark, of the three of you, would you admit to being the professional cynic ?”

MES “No, cynicism and defensiveness are two things constantly levelled at me. Look, I’ve got time for people, I’m good mannered. I usually find that when you are down, nobody has a bloody minute for you. If I was a nobody, you wouldn’t even talk to me.”
SM “You are nobody.”
MES “Fuck off. It’s bloody true. Neither would you, Nick.”
NC “Bullshit! That’s bullshit I take offence at that.”
MES “I’m not levelling anything at you. People, in general, don’t like being upfront and civil. They hate you for it. They label you a cynic ‘cos you’re reasonable.”
SM “You’re no reasonable though. You’re a rude bastard. That’s fair enough.”
SO’H “Ok I’m cynical. But I’m not defensive. I’m slightly paranoid which is healthy.”
NME “Slightly?”
MES “Listen, Sean, do you walk around London embracing everybody? If I was in the bleeding gutter you wouldn’t piss on me.
SO’H “I would.”
NC “Your reaction is becoming very defensive, Mark.”
MES “You’re a failed psychiatrist.”
NC “I’ve analysed you, alright-defensive paranoid with delusions of grandeur.”
MES “I’ve had discussions like this all the time in pubs. I end up beaten half to death on the floor. I try to be civil and people assume I’m attacking them.”
SM “You attack people all the time. In the press.”
MES “I used to. It became too routine so I gave it up. Nietzsche said ‘Embrace your enemies’. You two aren’t my enemies so I won’t embrace you.
SM “Read a lot of Nietzsche, have you?”
MES “All his stuff. I can’t quote him. I’m not into him anymore, gave up three years ago. He taught me a lot, though. We’re not all born public school boys like you.”
SM “I’m not a born public school boy.”
MES “Do you like Brendan Behan, he’s good.”
SM “Yeah, he’s not a fascist maniac posing as a philosopher.”
MES “If we’re gonna talk philosophy, that’s a load of crap ! The Nazis adopted his creed and distorted it, they misquoted him all the time.”
SM “‘The Will to Power’? Try re-interpreting that statement. You can’t. It says what it says.”
MES “He wasn’t a Nazi-you’re only saying that because some polytechnic fucking lecturer told you he was.”
SM “I’m saying it ‘cos I read two of his books where he dismissed the weak, the ugly, the radically impure, Christianity, Socrates, Plato. He was anti anyone who hadn’t a strong body, perfect features…”
MES “That’s the coffee table analysis. He was the most anti-German pro-Semitic person…”
SM “His books were full of hate.”
MES “You’ve just said you’re full of hate when you go onstage.”
SM “I don’t go around saying Socrates was a cunt, Jesus Christ was an idiot, do I ?”
MES “Jesus Christ was the biggest blight on the human race, he was. And all of them Socialists and Communists- second rate Christianity. It’s alright for you Catholics. I was brought up with Irish Catholics. Some of my best friends are Irish Catholics.”
SM “listen to him.”
MES “Hitler was a Catholic vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker. The way you’re talking about Nietzsche is that anyone who’s a non-smoker, non-drinker is a Nazi. That’s the level of your debate, pal. You don’t know fuck all about Nietzsche, pal.”
SM “You’re anti-socialist, too, aren’t you ?”
MES “Yeah. I’m an extreme anti-socialist. You don’t live on a housing estate where there’s been socialism for thirty years and they keep saying it’s gonna get better all the time and it never does. Thirty fucking years of it getting worse and worse. You obviously haven’t experienced that, living in London.”
SM “What’s the alternative ?”
MES “I don’t have to worry about that. I’m an adult. I’m working class, me. I come from a generation that fucking created this nation pal. You lot, you just sit around and talk about socialism, you’re the bloody problem. Eighty percent of this country are white trash, working class. How come they don’t vote Labour? ‘Cos the Labour Party are a fucking disgrace, that’s why. Engels- he was a factory owner in Manchester exploiting 13 year old girls. Learn your history, pal, learn your history. I suppose you blame all Ireland’s problems on the British. All the problems of the world are down to Britain. That’s what you think, why don’t you say it? You can’t tell me anything about oppression ‘cos, I’ll tell you something pal, if you’d been part of Germany, you’d have been liquidated. If you were part of Russia, you wouldn’t even exist. Don’t tell me about oppression, my parents and grand-parents were exploited to the hilt. Sent to wars, they had gangrene in their teeth. My grandfather was at Dunkirk and all you can see is Margaret Thatcher on my face when, actually, She’s on Nick’s face. Isn’t she Nick ? Come on Nick, help me out. Basically, I like to discuss things right down the line and I don’t agree with anybody…”

KING INC

NME “This is getting a bit out of order, can we talk about something less acrimonious. Heroes ?

SM “You’re into Presley, Nick.”
MES “A lot of Presley’s good stuff was overlooked. Like the NME viewpoint that he died when he came out of the army. I think the opposite, his best stuff came after the army.”
SM “That figures. He was a pile of shit when he came out of the army compared to before he went in. His mother died when he was in the army. That was one of the causes. Anyway, he did some good stuff in the late ’60′s after the army- ‘Kentucky Rain’, ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘In the Ghetto’ as opposed to ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’, ‘That’s alright Mama’. I suppose that’s all shit to you , is it ?”
MES “I’m not saying that but everybody writes the later stuff off…”
SM “Who ever writes off Elvis ?”
MES “Look, pal, Elvis was the king, right? To me, Elvis were king. He was only the king ‘cos he sustained it. You probably think he’s some kind of criminal ‘cos he went in the army for a few years. You’re insinuating that I’m pro-army and if you have anything to say on that score, say it now, pal and I’ll fucking argue right through you !”
SM “What ! He’s off again.”
MES “I’m into Mersey Beat at the minute- The Searchers. I respect Dylan. The only good thing I’ve heard of his is that LP he did with George Harrison and Roy Orbison.”

NME “You seem to prefer older music, is there nothing contemporary that appeals ?”

NC “It’s rare when a group comes along that has any real soul to them. Rock’n’Roll history isn’t long enough. There’s three or four blues people that I like after filtering through loads of blues. There’s about three gospel bands, a handful of country ones. I have to draw on the….what are you laughing at, Mark ?”
MES “Oh nothing, heh heh, I’m really into John Lee Hooker myself. He’s great solo without a band. His bands are crap. I was always into more experimental bands- Can, Faust. I won’t say German ‘cos Shane’ll have an epileptic fit. I think Nick’s more traditional and I respect that but, I’m into things like Stockhausen, The United States of America and Gene Vincent and rockabilly. That’s my influences. And I always preferred Lou Reed to the Velvet Underground.”

NME “What do you think of the blanket critical approval of Morrissey ?”

MES “Morrissey’s another Paddy! A South Manchester Paddy. Shane’s got more to say than Morrissey.”
SM “I think you guys are encouraging Mark to be like this. You journalists love it.”
MES “Of course they do. That’s the NME policy, they love a good argument. Don’t you lads ?”

Things fall apart. The unholy trinity climb on the pubstage. MacGowan on drums, Smith on guitar and Cave on the organ. A jam of sorts ensues- The Velvets meets Hammer Horror with a hint of Acid House. Totally wired. Summit mental.

(Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan and Kylie Minogue sing Bob Dylan’s ‘Death Is Not The End’)

What became of them after the tape finished we can only guess but I doubt they just got up and went their separate ways! These days its hard to imagine any publication with any influence doing something like this but we learn a lot about all three gents and though acerbic and argumentative Mark E.Smith certainly gets his point of view over and is heard. Gone before his time but he lived his life hard and wild and is one of a small bunch of working class musicians of which we can truly say that when they pass we will never see their like again.

MARK E.SMITH- 5 MARCH 1957 – 24 JANUARY 2018

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS THE BEST OF 2017!

Yes I know it only seems like five minutes since the last one but it’s that time of year again when we give you, for what it’s worth, our opinion on who made the best music in the celtic-punk scene over 2017. It’s been another outstanding year for the music that we all love and some truly fantastic records came out in the last twelve months. So read on to find out who came #1! Remember though this is only our opinion and these thirty album’s are only the tip of the iceberg of what was released last year. Feel free to comment, slag off or dissect our lists. We don’t pretend to be the final word as that my friends is for you…

1. FLATFOOT 56 (Chicago)- ‘Odd Boat’  here

2. THE TOSSERS (Chicago)- ‘Smash The Windows’  here

3. THE BIBLECODE SUNDAYS (London) – ‘Walk Like Kings’  here
4. THE PEELERS (Canada)- ‘Palace Of The Fiend’ here
5. FEROCIOUS DOG (England)- ‘Red’  here

6. BLACK WATER COUNTY (England)- ‘Taking Chances’  here

7. THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS (Germany)- ‘Sign of the Fighter’  here

8. IN FOR A PENNY (USA)- ‘One More Last Hurrah’ here

9. LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS (Brittany)- ‘Breizh Anok’  here

10. MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS (England)- ‘As The Tide Turns’  here

11. KILMAINE SAINTS (USA)- ‘Whiskey Blues & Faded Tattoos’  here

12. ORTHODOX CELTS (Serbia)- ‘Many Mouths Shut’  here

13. UNCLE BARD AND THE DIRTY BASTARDS (Italy)- ‘Handmade’  here

14. THE SILK ROAD (England)- ‘S/T’ here 

15. FLOGGING MOLLY (USA)- ‘Life Is Good’  here

16. THE LUCKY PISTOLS (USA)- ‘Where The Orioles Fly’  here

17. THE REAL McKENZIES (Canada)- ‘Two Devils Will Talk’  here

18. DRUNKEN DOLLY (Netherlands)- ‘Alcoholic Rhapsody’ here

19. CASSIDY’S BREWERY (Serbia)- ‘One Brew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’  here

20. CRAIC (USA)- ‘Sounds Of Vandemark’  here

21. THE MOORINGS (France)- ‘Unbowed’ here

22. JOLLY JACKERS (Hungary)- ‘Blood Sweat and Beer’ here

23. THE SCARLET (Hungary)- ‘Hardfolk Shanties’ here

24. THE DISTILLERY RATS (Germany)- ‘Tales From County Whiskey’ here

25. CELKILT (France)- ‘Stand’ here

26. DROPKICK MURPHYS (Boston)- ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’  here

27. O’HAMSTERS (Ukraine)- ‘Где бы мы ни бывали’  here

28. SONS OF O’FLAHERTY (Brittany)- ‘The Road Not Taken’  here

29. THE BABES (London)- ‘Greetings From London’  here

30. CHEERS! (Czech Republic)- ‘Daily Bread’ here

Just bubbling under:

THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM (USA), GHOSTTOWN COMPANY (Germany) McSCALLYWAG (Netherlands)

No surprise here at all as all four admins voted #1 for Flatfoot 56 and their utterly brilliant ninth album. Not only that but we also all gave second spot to The Tossers, making it a Chicago #1 and #2! The year began with news of two new Dropkick Murphys albums coming but we only got the one and it met with, well quite a muted response to be honest. Saying that they were fantastic live and they certainly added a new dimension to these new songs when played in the flesh. The list leans heavy towards the bands from these shores it has to be said but it was always going to be with bands we get to see live regularly. It’s especially fitting to see The Bible Code Sundays in there too. In a year when every ‘big’ celtic-punk band released an album the competition was great so well done to all. Keep them coming. If you are not here then it just means we didn’t all agree or even all hear it and maybe we didn’t receive it too. The amount of debut albums from loads of these bodes well for both the scene here and internationally with a great mix of bands from thirteen countries.

BLACK WATER COUNTY- ‘Taking Chances’

This was a very hard category to fill with so many new bands arriving on the celtic-punk scene this past year. Soooo many to choose from but in the end we pumped for our very own Black Water County who just pipped Cassidy’s Brewery and In For A Penny to the title!

1. BLACK ANEMONE (Sweden)- ‘In It For Life’  here

2. RAIN IN SUMMER (Indonesia)- ‘Discordant Anthem From The Gutter’  here

3. IN FOR A PENNY (USA)- ‘Every Day Should be Saint Paddy’s Day’  here

4. THE BOTTLERS (Australia)- ‘The Bottlers’  (here)

5. BLACK RAWK DOG (Indonesia)- ‘Suburban’s Folk Stories’  here

6. BogZH CELTIC CATS! (Brittany)- ‘Kazh al Lagenn’  here

7. THE CRAZY ROGUES (Hungary)- ‘Rebels’ Shanties’  here

8. THE McMINERS (Brazil)- ‘Tales of Betrayal and Deceit’  here

9. BORN AGAIN HEATHENS (USA)- ‘Born Again Heathens’  here

10. THE DEAD MAGGIES (Australia)- ‘Wild Dogs And Flannies’  here

Stand out winner here from Sweden’s Black Anemone which none of us were sure was either a big EP or a small album so we gave it the benefit of the doubt and placed it in here. Outstanding! Two representatives of Indonesia’s fantastic celtic-punk scene made up for no album releases from there last year and one band from a Celtic nation with the BogZH Celtic Cats! The Bottlers sneak in as they only sent it to us the week before Christmas. Glad they did though.

1. DECLAN O’ROURKE- ‘Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine’  (here)

2. ShamROCKS- ‘Ye Ould Chariot’ EP  (here)

3. CRIKWATER- ‘Crikwater’  (here)

4. BEOGA- ‘Before We Change Our Mind’

5. FOLLOW THE CROWS- ‘West is East’ EP  (here)

6. PLASTIC PADDY- ‘Lucky Enough’  (here)

7. DAMIEN DEMPSEY- ‘Soulson’

8. GALLEY BEGGAR- ‘Heathen Hymns’  (here)

9. I DRAW SLOW- ‘Turn Your Face To The Sun’

10. ANTO MORRA- ‘From The Vaults’

Absolutely no question who romped home here. from the first time I ever heard Declan O’Rourke’s monumental album Chronicles Of The Great Irish Famine I was simply blown away. I simply cannot recommend it enough. Go and acquire a copy now. A mix of folk and trad makes up the rest of the list with a special mention for Ukrainian band ShamROCKS who play Irish folk as if they were naturals! We would like to feature more trad and folk on these pages in the future hopefully. Also Vince Cayo had a fecking brilliant album but was neither celtic-punk nor folk. Was tempted to make a separate list just for him!

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

This use to be the Celtic Folk Punk And More Best Celtic Punk Web-Site award so often did they use to win but last year it went to the new kid on the block, our good mates over at Mersey Celt Punks. Well we were in a bit of a quandary about who would win this week but then in the last few weeks of the year the Mersey Bhoys upped their game and won a unanimous vote. They finally started to use their Web-Site (here) and published a whole host of great reviews and things like a events/gig section. You can also join in their fun and games at Twitter and Facebook and we heartily recommend you do.

So there you go. Remember we don’t pretend to be the final word on things in fact if you check the other celtic-punk media I’m sure we’ve all come up with relatively different lists. Our Best Of’s are cajoled and bullied out of the four admins from the London Celtic Punks Facebook page. The assorted scraps of paper and beer mats were then tallied up over several pints of Guinness in Mannions. Not all of us heard the same albums so like all Best Of’s ours is subjective.

CARLTON HUNT

Of course we cannot go any further without mention of the saddest news of the year. That of the passing of Carlton , the drummer of The Bible Code Sundays. A friend of London Celtic Punks and an absolute diamond stand up guy he will be forever sadly missed by all who met him. We are grateful To Ronan for penning a few words for him.

We lost Carlton on 3rd November 2017 unexpectedly and it has left a massive hole in our family. Carlton joined The BibleCode Sundays some twelve years ago when we were still called Slainte.

His work ethic was second to none, he even dragged us into the studio to record our first CD, he did a lot of pushing in the early days and the Lord knows we needed it!

He was always the first to say yes to any gig, whether it was a small Irish pub like The Old Crown in Hayes or The Shawl or whether it was some of our bigger gigs. Over the years we played some fantastic gigs and venues, such as The Royal Albert Hall, New York’s Beacon Theatre, The House of Blues in Boston, Shepherds Bush Empire, The Roundhouse, Glasgow Barrowlands, Indigo at The O2, Glastonbury Festival, Finsbury Park, London Irish, on the pitch at Twickenham Stadium and at Celtic Park (the night Celtic beat Barcelona). We’ve played with Elvis Costello, The Dropkick Murphys, The Wolfetones, John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd, the Saw Doctors and he even got to realise a dream when we shared a stage with Thin Lizzy. They were minus legends Phil Linnot and Gary Moore but this mattered not to Carlton, his hero Brian Downey was still behind the drums. Carlton got to meet his idol and even got some Thin Lizzy drumsticks as souvenir, he was like an excited little kid that night. We did TV appearances on Sky Sports, BT Sport and even a live St Patrick’s Day performance on BBC’s The One Show.

We got to travel around on trips and tours all around the UK and Ireland as well as Germany, Italy, Spain and the USA to mention a few. This was all just topping up the stamps on his passport that he had accrued in his days with Bad Manners, Feast of Fiddles and The Melody Fakers and many more as he spent so many years on the London Irish music scene.

Not many would know that he also wrote poetry and song lyrics, they are very clever with pun-tastic wordplay and generally came out sounding like Bernard Cribbins songs with titles like ‘Breakfast Epiphanies’ or the Brighton-themed song ‘All Things Brighton Beautiful’. He used to always say

“I try to be serious but the humour always takes over”

He did, however, manage to pen two of the best songs on our latest album, he was very proud of his songs ‘Disorganised Crime’ and the beautiful ‘Clouds’. Drummers writing songs?! Whatever next?! He truly was the engine room of the band, a quiet and gentle man off stage who turned into a one man wrecking ball when he was sat behind his drum kit.

Things will never be the same without him but he would want us to and we will carry on making music and playing his songs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, on drums.. Mr Carlton Hunt

This is the 5th year of us making these lists so if you would like to check out out who was where in our previous Best Of’s then just click on the link below the relevant year.

We are not alone in doing these Best Of lists in fact all the major players in celtic-punk do them so click below to check out what they thought.

CELTIC FOLK PUNK AND MORE

FOLK’N’ROCK

PADDYROCK

MERSEY CELT PUNKS

SHITE’n’ONIONS

MacSLONS IRISH RADIO

CELTICPUNK.PL

remember any views or comments we would love to hear them…

 Sláinte, The London Celtic Punks Crew- January, 2018

2017 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S PART THREE: THE CELTIC NATIONS- BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS, THE DECLINE!, BRUTUS’ DAUGHTERS, REAL McKENZIES, VINCE CAYO, THE BOTTLERS

So welcome to 2018 and the first post of the year and the last of our round-ups from 2017. We simply could not keep up with the volume of releases we keep receiving so rather than completely neglect them here’s some much shorter reviews that will at least give you a taste of what they are about. We much prefer to do really detailed reviews but these are still worthy of your time so go ahead and check them out and apologies to the band’s concerned that we had to squeeze them in. This week we concentrate on bands hailing from the Celtic nations or the Celtic diaspora. You can still catch up with our North America (here) and European (here) round-up’s.

BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS- ‘Walk Like Kings’  (Buy)

Described by the band as being made by accident we, and they, should be thankful for such unexpected delights. This is an album of thirteen glorious tracks covering themes of loss and longing and hope that show the Bhoys reaching new heights, musically and lyrically. Tracks, such as the fun filled ska beat ‘Disorganised Crime’ leap out of the speakers in a joyous racket that simply defies not being danced to and then there’s ‘Stand Up And Fight’, a collaboration with New Yorks finest Da Ded Rabbits, that punches it’s way through in a hard hitting pounding track that will be a surprise to some fans. Never fear the Bible Code sound is still evident as are other influences including an Oasis tinged ‘You Got Me On The Run’ but the title track, ‘Walk Like King’s’, is pure Bible Codes, a majestic thumping track full of defiance and pride for 2nd and 3rd generation Irish immigrants who weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths. Guests abound on this release – Elvis Costello, Matt McManamon, Brian Kelly… All adding to an eclectic mix of an album on which every track is worthy of your attention, be it the ethereal ‘America’

“Why we leave behind family, to a foreign land for to roam”

or the haunting beauty of ‘Snow Falling On Fire Escapes’ or the MacManus family collaboration ‘Willie Redmonds Volunteers’ all the tracks show a band at the top of their game and this is one that all London Celtic Punkers will want to check out. It has been a tough year for the band but this album is one thing that they can look look back on with fond memories and pride, let’s hope for more, someone once sang ‘accidents can happen, but only once…’ may the Bible Code Sundays fall into more.

“We face out, chest proud, In this town we walk like kings”

RIP Carlton.

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THE DECLINE!- ‘Heroes On Empty Streets’  (Buy)

More celtic-punk for you now but in the sense that this is a punk and from the Celtic nation of Brittany! The music scene in Brittany is very strong and is reflected in the growth of ‘Celticness’ and the resurgence in the Breton language. The Decline! are a five piece punk rock band from Rennes who formed in 2009. Their first EP, ‘An Old Indian Cemetery’, was released in the middle of 2010, and showed what proper genuine music today should be all about. They followed this up with their debut album ‘Broken Hymns For Beating Hearts’ the following year and was a mix of punk rock and acoustic folk tunes. 2014 saw the release of ’12a Calgary Road’ which saw the and branching out into celtic melodies but ploughing much the same furrow while taking on varying tempos with ease. This new album released in May may not have the asolute urgency of previous releases but more than makes up for it with it’s catchy singalonga punk rock. Kevin’s strong and distinctive voice and rumbling rhythm section certainly gets your blood pumping and while ‘Someday Somehow’ could pass for bleak post-punk maybe even Gothic in places the following track ‘Joyfull Thrill’ would make the early Dropkicks jealous.

We have to wait till track seven for the first signs of anything acoustic and it’s well worth the wait ‘We Love Our Scars’ hits the spot both lyrically and musically too. Its all very well done and very well produced too and while it may be possible to mistake this for an American punk release The Decline! are proud members of the Breton music scene. If catchy as feck melodic punk rock is yer thing then here’s the band for you.

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BRUTUS’ DAUGHTERS- ‘Hueso y Madera’  (Free Download)

Formed in November 2008 in Carabanchel, a suburb of Madrid as a straight forward punk rock band before they added Asturian bagpipe and fiddle and one of the most original bands in celtic-punk was born. This is the bands third album and, as usual, comes with songs written in Castilian, English and Asturian. As one of only a tiny handful of bands in the scene with female vocals they certainly stand out and with a defiantly anti-fascist message to boot. The music is fast and loud and punky but there is an undeniable hardcore traditional folk edge to it as well. Elements of their own countries as well as Celtic are merged together very successfully. As said I don’t understand much of the album but the sleeve notes speak of the endangered languages of the Celts, Celtic mythology and defending the underprivileged. The punk side of this reminds me of the Spanish punk music I use to hear in Hackney squats over the years but the folk influence is strong and comes out in reels and jigs throughout the album.

Only nine songs and twenty-eight minutes long but played at breakneck speed from the opening bars of the instrumental punky trad folk of ‘De Hueso Y Madera’ to the English language ‘Brazen’, the album moves at a great pace and its them pipes that really dominate here, holding it all altogether. Vocals are shared around the band and the standard gang chorus works very well especially on tracks like ‘Carretera’, for me the high point here with its catchy chorus while ‘Unidad’ is bass heavy and rumbles along nicely while the fiddle and pipes work overtime. ‘Carcel’ is another high energy number that offers up more of the same. Here’s a real Celtic band that is something quite apart from the herd. Alex voice is harsh and strong and fits the music perfectly. They are a lyrics heavy band so it’s a shame I can’t catch most of it as I am sure they have something important to say. Here’s a proper punk band playing proper punk rock songs that are littered with jigs and reels and a sea shanty about to break out at any moment. The hidden song here is the real folk gem though proving they can really play their instruments and you can find out yourselves for *FREE* yes you read that correct the album is available for sweet F.A from the link above.

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THE REAL McKENZIES- ‘Two Devils Will Talk’  (Canada / RestOfTheWorld )

Well what to say about Two Devils Will Talk? How it managed to escape a decent review is beyond me seeing how popular this awesome and is. Up there with The Mollys and the Murphs the Real McKenzies have been going an amazing 25 years and this, their tenth, is up there with the est I kid you not. I wasn’t overly enamoured with 2015’s Rats In The Burlap but here they have returned with fourteen rousing tracks of pure, unabashed Canadian-Scots celtic-punk mayhem. From the opening anthemic ‘Due West’ to a fantastic re-working of early McK song ‘Scots Wha Ha’e’ its absolutely brilliant. Once again they missed out of playing here so we never got to see them live but we can’t wait till they do darken these shores again. Punk, folk, acoustic, electric with pipes throughout weaving in the Celtic influence for which the band is best known. ‘Seafarers’ is one hell of a stand out tune. You can’t change how the waves roll only how you roll through them. The sense of humour they are famous for is riddled throughout the album and nowhere better than on the laugh out loud ‘Fuck The Real McKenzies’ where the band take the piss out of themselves, and everyone else too! They find room for a cover of Stan Rogers ‘Northwest Passage’ that only adds to this great song. Originally sang as an acapella song the McKenzies do it justice as you would expect. The album ends with my favourite McK song of all and plenty of rebellious, Scottish charm and wit here on an album that shows a band who are still capable of hitting the high notes even after a quarter of a century. A defiant return to form for one of the Premier League bands of celtic-punk.

The Real McKenzies on 25 years of Canadian Celtic punk rock here.

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VINCE CAYO- ‘Bound For Glory’  (Buy)

This debut album from talented multi-instrumentalist Vince Cayo has been bouncing around London Celtic Punks towers for a good six months now without making much of an impact until I decided to revisit a few albums for these round-ups and I can only think I didn’t listen to it properly as it is absolutely fecking brilliant. Not so much celtic-punk but def in the country-punk realm of things and Vince has a very strong voice that growls out at you like Tom Waits lashing it up with McGowan backed by The Street Dogs. Opening track ‘Wasteland Blues’ is a great start to proceedings with fast rock’n’roll country and harmonica shining out and Vince putting McGowan to shame! Vince says his influences range from the cream the celtic-punk but most importantly Flogging Molly, and the title track takes this adulteration to epic proportions, alongside such luminaries as Social Distortion, Billy Bragg, The Gits, Tim Barry, Bob and Dylan and they are all in there but with a bit of good auld Yorkshire grit and determination.

Not afraid to take a risk either with the epic ‘Folk The World’ seven+ minutes of heavy and hard hitting folk music that builds up and up into a real anthem of a tune with fiddle and mandolin taking it recklessly close to celtic-punk territory Vince! ‘Turn It Up’ is classic catchy punk rock that doesn’t seem out of place here at all and in fact slots in nicely among the folkier tunes. ON hearing this properly I though I could imagine him sharing a stage with the likes of Matilda’s Scoundrels so was no surprise to read after that he already had done. When I hear album’s like this I wonder if this is the start of something new. Well I say new but what I mean is a resurgence of folk and country music but with a modern interpretation. The album’s dozen songs wraps up the absolutely awesome country rock’n’roller ‘The Garbageman’ and ‘You Wont Be Marching Alone’. Great songs and a great production make Bound For Glory as good a debut album I heard in 2017  and I will be looking him up for any London dates I can tell you.

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THE BOTTLERS- ‘The Bottlers’ EP  (Buy)

Our final review comes from the land of Oz. A place I am constantly telling you and telling you is where the best Celtic-punk scene is and where the best Celtic-punk bands hail from. Why this is so is anyone’s guess. Perhaps one of these great Aussie bands would like to give us over here on the other side of the world a bit of an insight? The Bottlers come from that world and are a hard playing, nine piece (yes, nine!) celtic-punk band hailing from the capital city, Sydney. They may be city dwellers but you get the feel of the country off these Bhoys and Ghirl. Kicking off with ‘Hades Way’ its a rollicking good stroll through Irish folk-punk as filtered through the Aussie experience. Drawing from not only the vast rural reaches of the Australian nation but also the city and suburban streets with a solid tip of the hat to the folk, punk and folk punk pioneers that have traipsed and trekked the trails well before them.

This is both Australiana AND celtic-punk so intertwined are the two. ‘Take Back The Streets’ is a call to arms to the nations poor in a swirling waltz of anger and beauty. Only three songs on this EP and the curtain comes down with ‘Up She Rises’ and The Bottlers go out with a song that has a nod toward to 70’s English folk-rock in there somewhere amongst the rabble.

“The Bottlers believe folk based music should progressively speak of the times it exists in whilst hearkening back to it’s past, to the true heart of folk music, people. Because you truly can’t get where you’re going till you know where you’ve been”

and you can’t get better than that. In fact we may put it on a London Celtic Punk sticker.

  • yeah yeah I been reliably informed that Canberra is indeed the capital city not Sydney so congrats to Celtic Punkcast for spotting out deliberate mistake! Australia’s finest celtic-punk podcast. Check them out here or here.

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So ends Part 3 and our final part of the 2017 Round-Up’s. Again apologies to all the bands as each and every release fully deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have still probably missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send in your stuff to us to review. We are always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

  • COMING SOON- THE BEST OF 2017! What we thought were the best releases of the year covering Albums, EP’s, Celtic/Folk-Punk, Traditional and more.

2017 REVIEW ROUND-UP’S PART TWO: EUROPE- CASSIDY’S BREWERY, GALLEY BEGGAR, MAD MAN’S CREW, YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS, THE BLACK CLOVER

Every year that 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 simply 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 2017 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 there’s been no way we could keep up so here’s a few quick ones just to get 2017 out of the way. Each and every one are worthy of your time so go ahead and check them out and apologies to the band’s concerned that we had to squeeze them in. This week we concentrate on European bands while last time we visited North America (here) and next time we will review bands from the Celtic regions so join us in a few days.

CASSIDY’S BREWERY- ‘One Brew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’  (Free Download)

The lads from Cassidy’s Brewery sent me the link to their debut album just a couple of weeks ago so they sneak into our round-up’s but they are one of many featured here that I would have liked to do a full review of. They are a six-piece band hailing from Belgrade, Serbia. Formed in 2008 the current line-up has been together now for a couple of years. The band started like most European celtic-punk bands I suspect playing covers from the mainstays of celtic-punk plus local legends, in their case the awesome Orthodox Celts, before setting out with their own material. Here they give us a ten track album split 50/50 with covers and originals and while the covers are faithful punked up versions of Irish standards like ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and ‘Drunken Sailor’ it is their own songs that really shine on this album. Lyrically they are very strong with the words to album opener ‘Sail Away’ particularly sticking in my head. If you going to play celtic-punk and have no celtic roots then you need to know your history and this is where Cassidy’s Brewery come over well. With a accent that is easy to understand in fact you don’t need the lyrics as Uroš vocals are as clear as a bell throughout. Irish and Scottish history is covered and no better than on ‘Heroes’ where William Wallace and Finn MacCool go for a beer and end up meeting Prince Edward!

“We’ll slap you silly, so please come out!”
“This one’s for Culloden, and this one’s for Boyne, and this one’s for the pissy-ass stout!”

Absolutely brilliant and I love my celtic-punk with a sense of humour and Cassidy’s Brewery give it us. Musically it’s pretty damn good as well. Fiddle, tin whistle and accordion supply the folk instrumentation and the rest is yer basic punk rock quintet of two guitars, drums and bass. Its melodic punk with metally overtones but it never strays too far away from celtic-punk and they mix it up with folk songs and a superb version of ‘Rolling Down To Old Maui’ that is as good as any I have heard. It may say above that is free but that just means it is available as a ‘Name Your Price’ so it’s free if you like but if you value the celtic-punk scene and bands like Cassidy’s Brewery then stick them enough for a Guinness in there!

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GALLEY BEGGAR- ‘Heathen Hymns’  (Buy)

Here’s a band that you wouldn’t categorise as celtic-punk at all. Or folk-punk either but they certainly do have some crossover appeal to fans of London Celtic Punks I am sure. Heathen Hymns is their fourth album after  Reformation House (2010), Galley Beggar (2012) and Silence & Tears (2014) and the band have got stronger with each release. Hailing from Kent and London Galley Beggar are a band of six musicians that grew up obsessed with an old sound. You could I suppose pigeonhole them among bands like  Fairport Convention, Pentangle or Steeleye Span and while their may have been a time in my spikey haired punk rock youth I would have scoffed at that I can say that the sheer quality of their music has won me over. With their folk-rock sound quite in vogue at the moment they have been steadily building a huge fan-base and even huger reputation  and they have successfully merged the traditional folk sound of England with the psychedelic folk rock sound of the 70’s and nowhere better than on the hypnotic ‘Moon & Tide’ and its fantastic video.

Of course it’s the originals here that are the real jewels but the way they handle the covers of traditional standards ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’,  first heard in 1689!, and featuring guest vocals from Celia Drummond of UK acid folk legends Trees, and ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’ also impresses. Having recently signed to Rise Above Records they are set to kick on and move beyond their ‘festival fame’ and with bands like Ferocious Dog already on the way up its bands liken Galley Beggar who are set to join them.

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MAD MAN’S CREW- ‘Riot Without Weapons’  (Buy/Buy)

Hungary, Hungary, Hungary bloody Hungary. That’s how it seems this site goes sometimes. I won’t bore you with another list of absolutely brilliant Hungarian celtic-punk bands but will just say that I would swap all ours for theirs in a shot! Formed in June 2015 in Veszprém Mad Man’s Crew mix up a variety of styles with folk and punk colliding with ska via some rather nifty trumpet that slots in super nice. Kicking off with the brilliant ‘Leave Behind’ that takes melodic punk and throws in tin whistle and accordion and some band Oi! Oi!’s to great effect. As with Cassidy’s Brewery above the production here is superb and again the vocals are clear and Molnár is perfectly understandable. Eleven songs clocking in at forty minutes that very rarely strays from celtic-punk but when it does it explodes in your ears like a bomb going off. Fast paced punk rock with accordion is how I would best describe this. They have taken a different approach from the majority of Hungarian celtic-punk bands by concentrating more on the punk side of things though not to say the folk side is neglected it’s just that you wouldn’t automatically think of Irish folk music when you hear them. Other highlights here are the amazing ‘Anthem Of The Anarchists’ which takes all the elements and strands that make up celtic-punk and injects real life into them. I love this song so much it would make my Top Ten songs of the year!

Far as I can tell theirs no covers here but there is one song in Hungarian so maybe that’s one but a great debut album and yet another Hungarian band to go doolally about!

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YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS- ‘First Night Back in Port’  (Buy)

Hoist the Jolly Roger Ye Banished Privateers take no prisoners since launching in September 2012 and have a list of crew mates longer than yer arm with over thirty (!) members of the band and over a dozen on stage at gigs it makes for a rum do indeed. First Night Back In Port is the band/collective’s third album and is a staggering seventy-five minutes and fifteen songs of pure unabashed bastardized Irish folk an’ 17th century sea-shanty punk rock. The music takes you back to the 18th century a rough time when pirates dominated the seven seas and Ye Banished Privateers while they could easily become parody they mange to steer well clear of that thanks to great songs. At times it sounds like Tom Waits on the lash with fiddle, banjo and accordion while at others times its soft and gentle.

The album opener the emotional ‘Annabel’ is for me the best track here, a gentle introduction of a harrowing tale before plenty of opportunities galore to

“Let’s drink, let’s fight! Let’s fornicate by the harbour lights! Let’s fuck, let’s bite! Let’s dance away the night!”

leap out at you. The music is all acoustic and the vocals are shared around the band and while the music is strictly folk the spirit of punk is stamped throughout. One thing I did notice is that it is so full, with thirty members all battling for your attention, that it’s hard to pick out any elements in particular that impress. The sound is very authentic and not at all what I am use to listening to but i really enjoyed this wee time travel back to simple, honest and moving music.

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THE BLACK CLOVER- ‘From Sailor To Hobo’ EP (Buy)

Another release that sneaked in at the last minute this time from France and the debut release from a band that came from the ashes of Seagulls Are Drunk who featured on these pages a long, long time ago. The Black Clover celebrate their first anniversary with the release of this EP and again like with SAD it has a very particular French sound to it while also incorporating celtic-punk and traditional French folk music. Beginning with ‘A Road To Galway’ the song builds up and up and while not quite hitting punk rock levels it certainly rocks along and has a very catchy feel to it. Driving bass and drums and all the time fiddle and accordion keep it moving. They mix it up with ‘Black Tot Day’ a slightly jazzy sound but losing none of the celtic-punk bite and catchiness. Slowing it down for the saddest song you’ll hear today ‘The Lost Beer’, the tragic ballad of a lost love. As with Seagulls Are Drunk I thought then they had a real Tom Waits thing about them and the same here and not just because of Seb and his low and gruffled vocals. Imagine Tom fronting a celtic-punk band and you basically got it but then they go and throw out ‘La Baffe’ a Celtic/Breton bastard of a punk rocker and you realise that all four songs here are all different and then the EP ends with ‘The Sea Is Behind Me’ a beautiful ballad. Great release and bodes well for the future from a band who sound both innovative and fresh while having their roots planted firmly in the past.

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So ends Part 2 of our Round-Up’s and apologies to all the bands as each and every release deserved that full London Celtic Punks treatment. We have still probably missed some fantastic music so all the more reason to send in your stuff to us to review. We are always looking for people to join the reviews team so don’t be shy if you fancy giving it a go. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

EP REVIEW: FLATCAPS & FISTICUFFS- ‘Raspberry Cheesecake’ (2017)

*FREE* download of the debut release of delicious country Folk-Punk from Flatcaps & Fisticuffs from the town of Berkhamsted!
Ukulele, mandolin, guitar, cajon, trumpet and a fragrant hint of rap!
You know when you have made it as a band when you find other bands being compared to you and so it is with Matilda’s Scoundrels and Flatcaps & Fisticuffs. They are by no means clones but I think you could easily bracket them in the the same style of folk-punk with a bit of celtic-ness! I literally found out about them this week so made the short leap to the free download and bloody loved it so thought I’d get in touch with the guys and find out what’s the score with them. Long, long ago is how it usually starts but not this time! Duncan the mandolin player had just arrived in England from South Africa and on meeting Ben the guitar player in a pub and over a few (!) beers it was suggested they start a band. The hardest thing about starting a band, I’m reliably informed, is to find a drummer but they already knew one so it wasn’t too long before they progressed from playing open mic gigs in pubs around Hertfordshire to making their own folk punk sound with uke, mando and other standard band instruments.
The band hail from Berkhamsted, a historic market town in Hertfordshire in the south of England. Now any new appearance of a band in England even remotely sounding just a little celtic-punk is a joyous event to us and so we were more than a little excited to press play and see if they warranted all this excitement.
…well I am glad to say it’s a blooming excellent EP and you’d have to be a right mug not to take them up on their fantastic offer of a free download of it.

Flatcaps & Fisticuffs left to right: Ben- Guitar / Backing vocals * Duncan- Mandolin / Vocals * Adam- Uke / Vocals * Ben- Drums * Will- Percussion / Vocals * Tom- Bass

Raspberry Cheesecake begins with ‘Socks’ and it’s right up my alley with this ode to yer man’s socks hitting all the right notes for me.

“My socks, my socks, without them I’d be lost”

Fast paced with plenty of slow bits and a lovely gang chorus that’s easy to singalong to. It’s a bit daft but hey-ho give me the Toy Dolls over The Subhumans any day of the week. As stated already it has a tinge of Matilda’s Scoundrels about it with classic English folk and punk colliding and almost very nearly spilling over into celtic-punk.

On ‘Capo On A Jew Harp’ it’s more of the same if not punked up a bit but just as accessible and as catchy. The lyrics take a harder edge while still keeping the fun element. Politically directed lyrics but with a good sense of humour thrown into the mix is always going to be a winner. Bland virtue signalling has had its day and with the world seemingly on the brink every couple of months we want our politics to lift us don’t we? The final song here is a cover of the, frankly annoying, New Zealander Lorde’s debut single ‘Royals’. While her version is ok Flatcaps & Fisticuffs blow her away with the cobwebs with the catchiest little number here. The uke stands out loud and proud and it all has a bit of a celtic-ska thing going on. Seriously a fantastic number and enough here to keep fans of about five different genres delighted!

Raspberry Cheescake (where on earth did they pluck that name out of??) was released only last month and so we have been lucky to have found it so quickly. Flatcaps & Fisticuffs have made it available for free so just follow the link at the bottom of this review and I am absolutely certain you will be extremely glad you did. In this country we don’t have a wealth of bands playing this style of music so when one comes along its always a bit of an event and even better when they deliver something so special. So now that we have found them our next step is to get them on the short road to a London Celtic Punks gig. So here’s what to do… download the EP, find them and then like them on Facebook (link below) and lastly keep an eye out for them playing very, very soon. Enjoy!

Download Raspberry Cheesecake

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Contact Fisticuffs & Flatcaps

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While plans are afoot to bring Fisticuffs & Flatcaps for a London Celtic Punks show you can catch them at The Horn in St Albans on 18th of January, Nottingham on the 27th of January for a Homeless charity fundraising gig (TBC) and in London for somebody else at the Finborough Arms in Kensington on the 3rd of February. See you at the bar!

TEN YEARS WAITING FOR FLATFOOT 56 AND NEARLY OVER!

I can’t believe it but yes it’s been a decade since they first stepped foot on our shores and Chicago’s Flatfoot 56 are back! That gig inspired the setting up of the London Celtic Punks so we are as happy as Larry to be able to present their gigs in North and South London at the end of this month. This is a band with severe crossover appeal from the most hardcore of punk rockers to all lovers of fiddly-diddly and trad. With a support bill of the best in celtic and folk-punk that this island has to offer be sure not to miss them on their tour.

By Gerard Mellon

They say good things come to those who wait. Well this time that saying has proved true, because, after a 10 year wait, Flatfoot 56 are returning to these shores. Regarded by experts as being true heavyweights of the Celtic Punk scene, these gigs are not to be missed. They come, showcasing their ‘Album of the Year’ contender “Odd Boat”, along with a back catalogue of truly awesome proportions. These fellas are the real deal.

Formed in 2000 on the South Side of Chicago, FF56 was originally a three-piece family punk band featuring the Bawinkel brothers, Tobin (Vocals Guitar), Justin (Drums), and Kyle (Bass). A year later it was the addition of Josh Robieson (Pipes, Mandolin & Guitar), that gave the band it’s distinct Celtic flavour. The following year saw their first album released, “Rumble of 56”, a raw mix of punk and spirituality that displays some fantastic musicianship. It is clear to see that these guys were brought up in very musical surroundings! The pipes play an integral part in making the overall sound of the album quite unique. Their second release “Waves of War” followed in 2003. Very similar to “Rumble”, it still has that raw edge mixed with spiritual lyrics and dynamic rhythms. 2006 brought us “Knuckles Up”, with some rousing tracks that seem to make you want to join in. The dynamic rhythm of drums and bass is still there, joined by some wonderful mandolin and guitar playing and of course the pipes still sounding out a clarion call. It would be great if we got to hear some of these tracks while they’re here!

2007 saw the release of “Jungle of the Midwest Sea” and I don’t know if it was a change of record label or if their own personal circumstances changed, but this album, for me anyway, marked a change for the band. It is a subtle change, but noticeable all the same. The raw edge seems to be polished a bit, the song writing appeals to a broader audience. Maybe it was just a natural growth, but it took the guys up a notch or two. The classic “Warriors” is on this disc along with a dozen other gems! It wasn’t until 2010 that we got another album, but like I said at the beginning, good things are worth waiting for! “Blackthorn” is an absolute powerhouse of an album, there isn’t a duff track on it! From the anthemic ‘Born for This’ to the ballad ‘Shiny Eyes’, it is a masterpiece. If they just performed this album live at the end of the month, we would be the luckiest punters out there!! 2012’s “Toil” comes along and it is equally as good, more outstanding music from a band that has become a five-piece. Josh Robieson departing with Brandon Good (Mandolin, Harmonica, Guitar & Vocals) and Eric McMahon (Bagpipes, Guitar & Vocals) joining. Perhaps these additions improved upon an already outstanding formula. I am so looking forward to ‘Winter in Chicago’ being performed live.

And so, we come to 2017’s “Odd Boat”, and it is superb, sublime and sensational. In a year when Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys and The Tossers all brought out albums, this one stands head and shoulders above them all. If only to hear ‘Ty Cobb’ performed, you should go to see them. There was another personnel change for this album, with Justin departing and Conrad Allsworth (Drums) joining. Take a look at some of the FF56 You Tube vids from the Cornerstone festival in America if you want to see why everyone is so excited about this band arriving here. I, along with others, am travelling from the west coast of Ireland specifically to see them. Because not only are they one of the most original and exciting bands producing records at the moment, they are also one of the top live acts performing right now. Spurs are playing at Wembley and FF56 are playing in Tottenham, surely that should be the other way around!! We are so lucky to be able to see them perform live and hopefully, if everything goes well, it won’t be another 10 years before we see them again.

FLATFOOT 56

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(you can have a listen to the new album Odd Boat in it’s entirety by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below you luck sods)

LONDON CELTIC PUNKS PRESENTS FLATFOOT 56 LIVE IN KINGSTON AND LONDON

Yes a decade after their only London show stars of the Celtic-Punk scene FLATFOOT 56 are back in London. All the way from South Chicago, Illinois they are comparable to the Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly in the same breadth! Will we see the awe-inspiring crowd participation “wall of death” mosh pit? Who knows but their grab bag of musical influences from Oi! and punk to folk and traditional Irish Celtic sounds is sure to stir the emotions and get your feet moving.
Support acts for the Kingston and London gigs are THE LAGAN and MATILDA’S SCOUNDRELS and two solo acts ANDREW PALEY from PAPER AND PLASTICK and WARSHY from CRAZY ARM with DJ GREENFORD BHOY taking us into the night playing all yer favourite Irish, rock, rebel and folk. For the running order for each night check the Facebook event page below.

Sunday 26th November 2017

Flatfoot 56 arrive in Heathrow from Chicago and hightail across to Kingston in sorta South London (but don’t say that to anyone in K-Town!) to grace the stage at one of our favourite venues The Cricketers in Kingston. Doors at 7pm sharp. The Cricketers, 20 Fairfield South, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2UL. Tel. 0208 549 4394. Venue web site here. Plenty of parking in front of the venue and it’s only a short walk from the rail station. The music venue is upstairs and the sound here is quite simply superb! It’s £6 in and it’s PAY ON THE DOOR so we recommend an early arrival. Join the Facebook event here.

Monday 27th November 2017

Yeah I know it’s a bloody school night but you gonna miss it so you don’t feel a bit knackered at work on the Tuesday? Don’t be mental! Live at TChances in North London, 399 Tottenham High Road, London, N17 6QN it’s just a short walk from Seven Sisters tube on the Victoria line or White Hart Lane/ Tottenham Hale rail stations. Buses galore. The venue is opposite Tottenham Police Station if you get lost and has ample free parking. Facebook event here. Tickets are £7 in advance more on the door and

LONDON TICKET’S AVAILABLE FROM HERE

SINGLE REVIEW: THE PUNKFOLKERS- ‘Angry Man/ The Blacksmith’ (2017)

London Celtic Punks favourite and London Irish folk punker Anto Morra is back with his new project The Punkfolkers. This isn’t the folk-punk of The Levellers or The Pogues but the punk of the Pistols, The Stranglers and SLF as filtered through some real story telling and traditional folk.

The Punkfolkers are a three piece band based in East Anglia, around Norwich. Their mission in life is to introduce folk music to to the punks and punk to the folkies. This is the band’s debut release and comes out tomorrow, forty years to the very day that the Sex Pistols released the seminal Never Mind The Bollocks album. That album that changed the face of Britain and more importantly the music industry if, only for a short time, from the stale and boring to something alive and exciting and challenging.

This release is an old school double A side in the tradition of those early punk singles. With ‘Angry Man’ an original Punkfolkers song and ‘The Blacksmith’ in keeping with the style of the single is an traditional English folk song. Formed back in 2013 and led by the incredibly talented Anto Morra the band got together when recording Anto’s debut album Never Had To Shout. Accompanied here by John Child on guitar and Thim Flaxman on bass they have so far played an handful of shows including the London Celtic Punks sponsored release show for Anto’s EP ‘The Patriot’ but have been in the studio of late putting some tracks together for this single and a forthcoming album due for release in early 2018. The band’s knowledge of the punk movement is vast and diverse with Anto well known to us at London Celtic Punks and the London punk scene. As said an incredibly talented individual who is also unburdened by any sort of ego and is as nice a fella as could be met within the music scene. Anto has the not only a indepth knowledge of the asthetic and cultural importance of the movement but also a love and understanding of traditional folk music. If you ever want to hear unabashed folk music played on a acoustic guitar with no frills but filtered through the imagination of a dyed in the wool punk rocker then Anto Morra is your man without a doubt. Joined by John and Thim who as ex-members of East Anglian punk band Stain have brought the ability to recreate the sound used in early punk rock with an authenticity rarely seen.

Side A is the punky ‘Angry Man’ and a real time warp taking you back to the days of Liverpool winning the league and industrial disputes! Anto has a great voice and his London Irish twang fits perfectly and when he drops his ‘Aitches’ you know its not done for effect like the public school Lily Allen and co. Anto takes angry swipes at the things that piss him off like fox-hunting and the empire of The Sun but with a great dollop of humour and satirical bite that many Anarcho-Punk bands could only dream of. Chugging guitar and and throbbing bass instantly reminds you of 70’s bands like The Killjoys or Eater and loads of those early bands were London Irish so great to know we’re still doing now! The AA side is ‘The Blacksmith’ and is a bit more like what us Anto fan’s are use to.

Not afraid to play both the more popular or the obscure songs Anto has chosen well here with a song that has been covered by some real legends and pioneers of folk-rock. Steeleye Span, Planxty, Pentangle have all recorded it while into more modern times Runa had a marvellous version on their debut album Jealousy. It is a traditional English folk song also known as ‘A Blacksmith Courted Me’ and was first noted back in 1909.

“Strange news is come to town
Strange news is carried
Strange news flies up and down
That my love is married.
I wish them both much joy
Though they can’t hear me
And may God reward him well
For the slighting of me”

The well worn tale of illicit love and deceit is played by The Punkfolkers with Anto’s voice pushed to the fore but the understated backing is superb and really grows as you notice it more and more each time you hear the song. Of course the banjo that drops in half way simply takes it to another level. Superb.

The Punkfolkers

So keep an eye out for The Punkfolkers album Night Bus To Tombland  due out sometime early 2018 and in the meantime enjoy this single from a band with a great pedigree and to say I am excited to hear it is an understatement I can tell you. Forty years of protest, rebellion and punk and with records like this we can look forward to another forty as well!

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE BABES- ‘Greetings From London’ (2017)

The Babes are a trio of London celtic-punk misfits that play fast and punky Poguesy type music… and with just drums, bass and bagpipes!

In a small scene such as ours over here in Blighty it’s always brilliant news to hear of another celtic-punk band joining the fold and we were over the moon earlier this year to get The Babes on board the London Celtic Punk scene. Announcing their arrival with a series of gigs around London it took a while for us to catch them live but we did sit up and take notice of a bunch of well made and edited You Tube videos that impressed us straight away so we roped them into supporting Headsticks and Under A Banner at The Water Rats. There they blew the crowd away with what can only be described as celtic-crust music! Snotty, two fingers in the air, DIY punk rock with bagpipes and a massive stage presence. Having your guitarist leave just before a big gig the easiest decision would be to cancel but The Babes said hell no and instead went on to play half an hour of fast as hell with only drums, bass and pipes!

The Babes- Matt Ren Ex: Bass, Vocals * Mao Holiday: Bagpipes, Vocals * Marvin Pedro: Drums

The guys met at the IMW sound engineering school in East London and soon via a garage in Twickenham, South West London it wasn’t long before The Babes were delivered. Bringing together Colombian, American and English backgrounds and featuring ex-members of punk legends Total Chaos and Blitz they have already played more gigs than most band who have been together much longer and have embarked on two extensive tours of Europe as well. They are literally just back from their most recent Euro tour promoting this album which took them to Brittany, France, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium and with no let up they hit the boards again in London straight after and head off again next month to Catalonia and Spain for a few dates.

Greetings From London has been self produced and funded by the band and is a real achievement for them. The physical CD comes in a rather nifty jewel case with a beautiful huge full colour booklet with lyrics and photos and all sorts of stuff. Very nice it is too. But what about the music? Well the album kicks off with ‘The Awakening’ an instrumental that starts with very much a traditional Gaelic feel to it before the band slowly join in and take it up to the end and for once are a bit restrained and the album gets off to a fantastic start. The next track, ‘Gold Star’ again begins with the pipes loud and proud and Mao’s voice and strong accent driving it along but no sign so far as yet of what The Babes are best known for. I have to say at this point so that I don’t repeat myself throughout the review after each song that the bagpipes on this album by Mao are absolutely fantastic. A native of Colombia he has certainly learnt well and the pipes are a great addition to the solid punk rock fare. By the way the band have given up ‘Gold Star’ as a free download so simply click below to get the track for free.

FOR ‘GOLD STAR’ CLICK HERE

A couple of short ninety second songs follow in ‘Down Here’ and ‘Do Something’ and the band that springs to mind here are definitely the Bristol based drunken crusty punk band Disorder, who John Peel once famously described as “sounding like Triumph Bonneville motorbikes”. I came across Disorder as a ten year old Sham 69 fan who use to spend his weekly pocket money on punk singles but was so impressed one day by the sheer number of songs on one single in particular (and the cheap price!) that he bought it without listening took it home and got shouted at my his Mam and Dad when he put it on. To say it made Sham look like the Bay City Rollers would be an understatement! Best song so far is up next and ‘Lima Limon’ has plenty of energy and fire in the belly and even when you listen to it you completely forget that there’s no electric guitar here. For a three piece band they certainly fill out the space extremely well and are all great musicians in their own right. When I saw The Babes recently play Matt the bassist explained the significance of the song ‘Song of Finola’ and it was very interesting but beer has clouded my memory and all I can remember is that it was an Irish story. The pipes drive the tune along and Matts vocals seem distant while the song floats along. A superb track and here I find myself having to say that sure I don’t think that Greetings From London will appeal to everyone in the celtic-punk scene but then this is not yer typical celtic-punk album and The Babes are not yer typical celtic-punk band either. Next up is ‘Rampton Song’ originally written by and the lead song on that EP I bought thirty odd years ago by Disorder. Fast and over in a flash of ninety three seconds and The Babes have chopped and changed the song making it their own.

Thundering bass dominates here and live I can tell you it’s bloody crowd pleaser. ‘Kids’ doesn’t last much longer before ‘Dandelion’ and Mao and Matt share vocals and lyrics in Spanish and English. Next up it’s the album’s highlight which is without doubt ‘Tomorrow Seems So Far Away’. Released as the first single from Greetings From London and on hearing it I straight away knew they were onto a winner.

Promoting ‘Tomorrow Seems So Far Away’ took them on their first tour ‘The Babes Invade Mainland Europe’ where they had the opportunity to visit France, Germany, Belgium and Holland. Positive lyrics and a killer tune with stunning piping and that thundering bass thundering away it’s a complete tune and if you like this song then you are going to fecking love the rest of them.

“Tomorrow seems so far away,

why don’t we live for today?

When yesterday is all said and done,

why don’t we just have some fun?”

We nearing up to the end now with just two songs left and the short ‘The Choice Is Up To You’ takes us through to ‘Chia Sue’ and the album ends on a high with a punk rock masterpiece taking all the things that The Babes are good at and throwing them back to us.

As you can imagine for a band that met at sound engineering school the sound here is immaculate with plenty of power and oomft without being over produced at all. A really good job by Mao who engineered, produced, mixed and mastered the whole thing ably assisted by Colin Smith, David Clark Allen and Sean Bartle. As said The Babes may not be everyone’s cup of tea as they are most firmly planted on the punk rock side of the celtic-punk scene and they aint a lot of folk music going on here after that first song! Though as an old and greying punk rock misfit myself I blooming loved it. The energy is boundless and infectious and if maybe The Babes are best experienced live they have done as good a job as could ever be done in transferring that live sound onto disc. Greetings From London is a refreshingly raw album that goes to show that their is still plenty of room in the celtic-punk scene and it’s not all played out. Just as you think the scene has got stale and there’s never going to be another band coming along that doesn’t instantly remind you of something else then one appears and this time it’s The Babes.  

Buy Greetings From London

From The Band here or here and All Ages Records in Camden.

Contact The Babes

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  • The Babes are constantly playing somewhere and have even begun to venture beyond London too so have a look on their web site or you can subscribe to their Facebook events (here) and be sent a invite every time they play near you.

HOW THE IRISH BECAME THE POGUES

by Jack Hamilton

The Pogues

Last March I enjoyed the pleasure (and attendant hangover) of partaking in the annual ritual of alcoholic commerce that is St. Patrick’s Day in Boston.  Although I had grown up in the area, and in a decidedly Irish-American household at that, I had spent the past seven such holidays as a resident of New York City, and while St. Patrick is certainly heartily toasted in New York things haven’t reached the pathological extremes of Boston, where they’ve even gone so far as to cook up a bogus holiday in its honour.  After managing to find a bar which, while crowded, was thankfully free of either a gratuitous cover or any sort of neon leprechauns, my small group of friends and I settled in for an evening of friendly imbibing and spirited conversation, surely two of the more distinguished aspects of the Irish national character.  All night we listened to the Celtic-infused rock ‘n’ roll of the Pogues.  This was not by choice—the bar had no jukebox, merely a bartender’s iPod—yet the selection seemed so obvious that I doubt any objections were raised.  In fact, I doubt many objections were raised in any of the numerous bars throughout the city that most likely played a considerable dose of the Pogues on St. Patrick’s Day, or for that matter in any of the countless establishments around the world who presumably engage their patrons in similar entertainment come March 17.  As the old cliché goes, everyone becomes Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and a good deal of those busying themselves with “becoming Irish” will find themselves at some point listening to the music of the Pogues.

The issue of how the Irish became the Pogues—or, for that matter, how the Pogues became Irish—is an interesting one that makes their emergence as progenitors of Irish authenticity all the more complex.  Outside of Dublin-born guitarist Phil Chevron, none of the members of the Pogues’ primary line up were Irish by birth: refugees of the dying British punk movement with an affinity for traditional Irish music, singer-songwriter Shane MacGowan¹, tin whistle player Spider Stacy and accordionist James Fearnley formed the Pogues in the early 1980s in North London.  Furthermore, while their music often proudly employs ‘trad’ instrumentation—whistles, pipes, banjo, accordion—the Pogues also prominently feature two crucial pieces you’d be loath to hear while trolling trad sessions in Galway or Cork: namely, an electric bass and drum kit.  Indeed, when one couples their rhythm section—clearly more schooled in American R&B and rockabilly than reels, jigs or hornpipes—with their ragged lead singer, the Pogues have always at their heart been a rock band, closer to the Clash than Turlough O’Carolan.  I bring up these points neither to challenge the Pogues’ claim to Irishness nor slander their authenticity, but rather to point out that the band represents a fascinating example of transnational mobility in which a British band aggressively appropriates Irish musical traditions, imbues them with a punk sensibility then exports the sound around the world, where the result is deemed ‘Irish’. Noel McLaughlin and Martin McLoone have argued that the Pogues’ musical hybridity speaks to diasporic qualities central to Irish cultural identity, noting that

“the Pogues address the Irish emigrant through song narratives that offer an ‘in-betweenness’”

While surely compelling, such an assessment fails to address the Pogues’ massive popularity in Ireland itself, where the band’s frequent touring and Republican political leanings have elevated MacGowan and company to folk-hero status.  It would seem that the Pogues’ greatest musical legacy lies not in their commitment to Celtic musical traditions but rather the affectionate and wilful dragging of these traditions into the foreboding present, and it is through this gesture that the Pogues most effectively lay their claim to a far more meaningful Irish tradition than the sort celebrated with green beer and shamrock tattoos.

Nowhere is this impulse so thoroughly manifested as in the complicated talents of Shane MacGowan.  A gifted melodist and the sort of writer that inspires websites devoted to interpretations of his lyrics, MacGowan holds a place among the finest rock songwriters of his generation.  As a singer MacGowan’s voice is tattered yet full of conviction, reminiscent of Seamus Heaney’s memorable writing that ‘the voice of sanity is growing hoarse’. Of course, it is also with MacGowan that the Pogues’ more problematic notions of Irishness are cultivated.  MacGowan’s infamous alcoholic tirades, run-ins with the law and glorification of the Irish Republican Army have surely re-inforced as many negative Irish stereotypes as his prodigious musical output and knack for verse have brought out positive ones.  While MacGowan has frequently drawn comparisons to the late Irish poet Brendan Behan (a comparison MacGowan himself invokes in the sublime ‘Streams of Whiskey’), there is another, albeit fictional, figure from Irish literature with whom MacGowan shares a resemblance: James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, the irascible protagonist of ‘Portrait of the Artist’ who must turn his back on Ireland in order escape the spiral of his homeland’s tormented past.  Whereas Stephen ultimately flees Ireland for Paris, MacGowan and the Pogues sought to flee London to a particular Ireland of their own imagining.  It is this Ireland, one that exists via North London and rock ‘n’ roll, that so many of us visit every St. Patrick’s Day, when the Pogues songs flow from jukeboxes like so many streams of whiskey and we all try a little too hard to become a little more Irish than we probably should.

¹ A common misconception is that Shane was born here but he was in fact born in the Premier County and moved to England as a child.

further reading: Noel McLaughlin and Martin McLoone, ‘Hybridity and National Musics: The Case of Irish Rock Music’ (Apr. 2000)

if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a stack of great articles on them:

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’  here 

‘The Pogues And Irish Cultural Continuity’  here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

‘Red Roses For Me And Me’  here

‘Film Review: I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’  here

‘Book Review: Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen’  here

‘The Pogues On Mastermind- The Questions’  here

The Best Pogues Related Sites

In The Wake Of The Medusa  Paddy Rolling Stone  The Parting Glass  Pogues Facebook Page

REMEMBERING WILLIAM WALLACE RALLY IN LONDON AUGUST 20th 2017

“I have brought you to the ring, now dance the best you can!”
Words shouted by William Wallace to the Scottish army at the Battle of Falkirk on the 22nd of July 1298 as the English cavalry began to charge.

REMEMBER THE SCOTTISH PATRIOT AND MARTYR WILLIAM WALLACE EXECUTED AT SMITHFIELD IN LONDON AUGUST 1305

SUNDAY 20th AUGUST 2017

ASSEMBLE 2pm BY THE WILLIAM WALLACE PLAQUE ON THE NORTH OUTSIDE WALL OF ST BARTHOLOMEW’S HOSPITAL, WEST SMITHFIELD, LONDON EC1A 7BE.

(TUBE: ST PAULS/ BARBICAN/ FARRINGDON/ BLACKFRIARS ALL BETWEEN 5 AND 10 MINUTES WALK. RAIL: BLACKFRIARS/ CANNON STREET/ CITY THAMESLINK/ FARRINGDON. BUS: 4/ 8/ 25/ 56/ 172/ 242)

To the immortal memory of Sir William Wallace, Scottish patriot, born at Elderslie Renfrewshire circa 1270 AD, who from the year 1296 fought dauntlessly in defence of his country’s liberty and independence in the face of fearful odds and great hardship, being eventually betrayed and captured. Brought to London and put to death near this spot on the 23rd August 1305.

His example heroism and devotion inspired those who came after him to win victory from defeat and his memory remains for all time a source of pride, honour and inspiration to his countrymen.

Dico tibi verum libertas optima rerum nunqual servili sub nexu vivito fili.
{Latin: I tell you the truth. Freedom is what is best. Sons, never live life like slaves.}

Bas Agus Buaidh
{An old Scottish battle-cry in Gaelic: Death and Victory}

SIR WILLIAM WALLACE – A BIOGRAPHY

Blind Harry. Blind Harry was a wandering minstrel in Scotland in the 1400’s, and he told tales of William Wallace on his journeying round Scotland. This book is the second biggest selling book ever in Scotland, outsold only by the Bible. This work gives us much detail of Wallace’s early life, but as there is no other source to back any of the tales up, it must be looked at critically from an academic viewpoint.

It was Blind Harry’s work that was used as the basis for the motion picture ‘Braveheart’ -it is still in print, but it is in the form of an epic poem and may seem dated to modern sensibilities.
William Wallace jumps onto the pages of our history books in 1297, when he stabs the English governor of Lanark to death. It is said this was in retaliation for the slaying of his sweetheart. We do not know the exact year of William’s birth, but educated guesses put it between 1270 and 1275, so he was still a young man.

Little known plaque to William Wallace in the Mitchell Arcade in Rutherglen. It was in Rutherglen that Menteith agreed to betray wallace to the English.

From this point on, young men in Scotland, dismayed at the English occupation of their native soil, flock to join Wallace’s banner.

By mid 1297, Wallace has a rag tag army. He joins forces with Andrew Murray, (sometimes spelt Moray, but the pronunciation is Murray) a young man who has started a similar rising in the north of Scotland.

While these two are besieging the castle of Dundee, word comes that the English have sent a great army against them. The two armies come to battle at the bridge over the River Forth at Stirling on September 11, 1297. Wallace’s base at this battle was a huge rocky outcrop named the Abbey Craig, so called because of its proximity to Cambuskenneth Abbey, and today this rock is crowned by The National Wallace Monument, a 220ft tower celebrating the life of Wallace, and containing as its prime exhibit, what is believed to be the sword of our hero.

The Scots routed the English with much slaughter, but unfortunately Murray received wounds, which were to prove fatal, and he was taken north to Fortrose Cathedral to be buried.The Scots went on to invade northern England to bring back much needed supplies, and on return from this invasion Wallace was made “Guardian of Scotland” at the Kirk of the Forest, the remains of which stand in the town of Selkirk. He was also knighted, as from this time on he is referred to as “Sir” William Wallace.

Looking toward the great window of Westminster Hall, the oldest part of England’s Houses of Parliament. It was in this hall that Wallace’s sham trial took place.

The English king, Edward I, commonly known as “Longshanks” returned from his continental wars, and gathered another great army and marched north to deal with Wallace. These two armies came face to face at Falkirk in July 1298, and this time the English longbow was to prove the undoing of the Scots spearmen.

The Scots fled, and Wallace resigned the guardianship, preferring to fight the overwhelming might of England with guerrilla tactics.

In late 1299, Wallace decided to travel abroad and try and enlist foreign help. He travelled to France, and to Rome, hoping that the Pope would exert influence to try and curtail English deprivations in Scotland.

He returned to Scotland in 1303, only to find that the English had tightened their grip and that he must start from scratch to try and regain his countries liberty. The fight back began, but the odds were very much stacked against him. Wallace was eventually betrayed and captured at Robroyston near Glasgow, on 3rd August 1305. He was taken first to Dumbarton Castle, where his sword was left behind, and then he was taken south to London. He arrived in London on the 22nd August. The crowds were so great, so eager to see this Scottish “murderer” that he had to be kept the night in a house in Fenchurch Street. The next morning he was taken to Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, where his sham trial took place. He was allowed no defence, but he managed to shout above his accusers that he was “ A Scot, born in Scotland, and did not recognise England as his sovereign nation”.

He was tied to the tails of horses, and dragged through the streets of London for 6 miles, eventually arriving at Smithfield Elms. Here he was hung, then cut down while still alive. His stomach was opened and his entrails were pulled out and burnt before him. His heart was then ripped out, ending his life. His body was cut to pieces, his head stuck on a spike on old London Bridge. The parts of his body were sent north to dishonour the Scots. Longshanks thought by giving him such an ignoble death that the Scots would forget Wallace, and there were religious connotations too. Wallace would have no body to rise on Judgement Day, and so be damned forever.

But Sir William Wallace needs no tomb. His memory lives on in the heart and souls of Scots, every generation recognising his devotion to his native soil, and he will be remembered by Scots men and women till the end of time.

EP REVIEW: FOLLOW THE CROWS- ‘West is East’ (2017)

London based Celtic folk rock/Irish/bluegrass band with hard-driven vocals fused with guitar and mandolin mayhem, underpinned by riotous folk rhythms of rebellion, redemption and downright recklessness!

Formed in August, 2012 Follow The Crows are the latest in a growing line of bands playing in the London Irish-folk scene that have embraced some of celtic-punk’s harder edges. They have been playing regularly around London for a good while but so far apart from coming across them on Facebook we haven’t had the opportunity to check them out live in person as it were. Then this arrived on the doorstep, their new EP released last January and after just a couple of listens they have swiftly risen to the top of the list of bands I want to see.

Follow The Crows (left to right): James Cannon- Vocals, Guitar * Ben Sumner- Mandolin, Banjo, Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals * Dan Ferguson- Fiddle * Lawrence McNamara- Bass, Backing Vocals * Karl Hussey- Drums, Percussion

East Is West is Follow The Crows debut release and begins with the kind of song that our description at the top of this review fits exactly. ‘Lay It Down’ starts with the sounds of the ocean before slowing morphing into a song combining elements of trad Irish, bluegrass and Americana that makes this EP a real winner. Catchy as hell and a real foot tapper.

Extremely well played by very good musicians and while there are no thrashy guitars, or even drums, it’s given that bit of edge by singer, James raspy vocals.

“Freedom songs don’t say anything
When you’re out on you’re own
With those big wheels turning
Those bridges burning
West is east high is low”

They follow this with the soft rock edged ‘As The Night Comes Falling’. Threatening at any minute to go flat out, and part of me does wish they would, but they reign it in and keep it nicely subdued. Coming off here as part Tom Waits- part Mumford with a dash of rock’n’roll it’s another great number. Third track here is ‘Black For The Crows’ and if you’ve ever heard the Murder Ballads album by Nick Cave then that’s the territory we are in here. Great song and though underpinned by Irish/celtic music influences seep in from everywhere.

“They rose up their banners for glory on high
Sounded the bugle beneath the blue sky
‘Freedom will follow when the day is o’er”

The EP comes to an end with ‘Quiet Land Of Erin II’ and for me they save the best for last. Ever so reminiscent of The Waterboys here I think. With James sounding a real ringer for Mike Scott. The vocals are almost whispered while the Crows get plenty of guests in to give the song a real full band sound once it gets going. More proof that Follow The Crows are fantastic musicians and with the songs to match to bring the curtain down.

“Oh father now she said
The curlew and the cuckoo’s fled
Troubled is the heart that you’re hearin’
Oh father now she said
They buried you among the dead
On the quiet, quiet land of Erin”

At the moment East Is West is only available as a digital download for now and priced at a very reasonable £3. It’s a great introduction to the band and if they want to stray away from the London pub circuit then a follow up album of more like this is a necessity and will surely achieve it.

(listen to East Is West by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

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ALBUM REVIEW: JAMIE CLARKE’S PERFECT- ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ (2017)

New album from German based ex-member of The Pogues Jamie Clarke’s Perfect.

Pioneers and purveyors of Folkabilly Rock- rockabilly and punk mixed with a dash of Irish folk and a belly full of beer!

The name Jamie Clarke will be known to many of you due to his membership of a certain band in the 1990’s. Yes he was only a member of the bloody Pogues!!! Londoner Jamie grew up in London and happened to be in the right place at the right time being a teenager at the time of the original punk rock explosion in the capital sparking off a lifetime interest and involvement in music. Passing through many bands until he became Philip Chevron’s guitar technician while The Pogues were literally touring and conquering the world. In 1994 ill health forced Phil to leave the band and in the spirit of The Pogues they chose Jamie to replace him. Sadly this was also the time of Shane’s most wild excess and he soon left the band as well. Jamie played on the final Pogues album Pogue Mahone and wrote, what was always for me, the best song on the album ‘The Sun And The Moon’. On the break up of the band Jamie moved to Germany and formed Jamie Clarke’s Perfect, the band he’s been playing and recording with ever since.

Jamie Clarke’s Perfect left to right: Johnny Rebel- Bass * Pierre Lavendel- Banjo/ Mandolin * Jamie Clarke- Vocals/ Guitar * El Diablo- Drums. Accordion on the album- Andy Schnapps (not pictured)

With a slew of album releases behind them I have to make the confession that this is the first LP I have ever heard and I have been suitably impressed to want to check out the back catalogue as well. The last couple of years I have got bored with the seriousness of punk and started to listen to more and more rockabilly/psychobilly so I was more than pleasantly surprised to find Hell Hath No Fury laced with more than a little rockabilly alongside the folk, or as the band themselves call it- ‘folkabillie rock’.

The album begins with ‘Back From Hell’ and straight away one band popped into my head. With a very distinctive banjo and accordion sound it was early Blood Or Whiskey that leapt out the speakers at me. Even Jamie’s vocals reminded me of the original BOW vocalist Barney. Needless to say this ain’t a band that’s copying them as their sound is still incredibly original. Incredibly catchy opener and it don’t change throughout. This band got some real good tunes and considering how long they been going/how many releases they have that is some achievement. ‘Monster’ and the album’s first single ‘Change The World’ keep up the foot stamping and again excellent accordion/banjo stand out as well as Jamie himself.

The first sign of that Folkabilly Rock start to appear next in ‘On Your Feet’. I literally could not keep me feet still listening to this. Catchy (there’s that word again…) as hell with a great chorus and some great rock’n’roll banjo from ex-Frantic Flintstones guitarist Pierre. Several songs here also take in The Pogues and ‘Waking Down The Road’ is one of them while title track ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ nails their sound completely. One of the album highlights and a word here for Jamie and his vocals. As I already said he may sound like he has a sore throat and I do wonder how many fags a day he’s on! He sings with a real passion that while not overstating does in fact stand right out without you really noticing. In the old Irish traditional the voice as an instrument. His lyrics help of course as they tend to take up most of the length of the song. I Would have liked to have seen the lyrics as even though they are clear it is hard to keep up. ‘Eve Champagne’leads us up to the first cover and ‘La Bamba’ the old Mexican folk song made famous first by Ritchie Valens in 1958 and Los Lobos in the summer of 1987. Another solid number ‘Gun In My Hand’ leads us into a great Irish trad/rockabilly instrumental ‘Un Hoyo Es Un Hoyo’. We coming up to the end of the LP and the final three songs fly past in a flash of brilliance starting with the frantic ‘Rollercoaster’ while ‘Rockabilly’, not surprisingly, takes that rock’n’roll sound and plays it right up before Hell Hath No Fury ends with another album high point, ‘Protest Song’.

Thirteen great songs. Unlucky for some but not for us! The album clocks in at a very healthy forty minutes and shows enough individuality and originality to make sure it never drags or sounds jaded. Germany has a real love of alternative music and has produced many many great celtic-punk band psychobilly bands so it should come as no surprise that they have embraced a mixture of the two. After all it was only a few weeks ago we reviewed the new album from another German  band, Pitmen (here) who mix both genre’s to great acclaim. So with over twenty years behind them and thousand’s of gigs well done to them for putting out such a consistently great album that may veer off from celtic-punk in several directions but always keeps at it’s core the sound of celtic folk. Punk, rockabilly, psychobilly, celtic-punk and country all raise their heads here on an album I was completely taken aback from and I can’t understand why more isn’t known about this great band even within the celtic-punk scene.

Discography

Perfect Liar (1997) * Perfect Live (1998) * Sickly Men Of Thirty Or So (1999) * Live Too (2000) * Nobody’s Perfect (2002) * Live Free (20004) * Psychic TV- Single (2006) * You Drove Me To It (2007) * Fucking Folkabillie Rock (2010) * Beatboys (2011)

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LIVE REVIEW: FEROCIOUS DOG AND NECK AT THE GARAGE, NORTH LONDON LAST NIGHT!

We don’t hang about here and hot off the press here’s a review of last nights shenanigans. It all happened in the heart of Arsenal territory in North London but thankfully they weren’t at home and we had the Wetherspoons to ourselves pre-gig. Two of the greatest celtic-punk bands around combined for the perfect night and gave their London Hellhound following a night to remember.

Review by Chris Brown

Tonight’s gig was Ferocious Dog and Neck at The Garage in Highbury.

The Garage

An easy trip from Pimlico to Highbury and Islington on the Victoria line and the venue was opposite the tube station.

Ferocious Dog and Neck have been talking about doing this gig at The Garage for a year or two now and finally it’s happened.

I was there to do Neck’s merch and covered a couple of Leanne’s breaks too. Also had a Sea Shepherd stand next to us so I was able to talk to them about having a stall at my event raising funds for Hunt Sabs and Sea Shepherd in Derby on May 6th. 13 bands in 12 hours and free entry.

pre-gig

Neck’s set was superb. Playing favourite tracks like ‘Every Day Is Saint Patrick’s Day’, ‘Always Upsetting Somebody’, ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’, ‘Star Of The County Down’, ‘Everyone’s Welcome To The Hooley’ and ‘The Psycho-Ceilidh Mayhem Set’. A wonderful set of London-Irish Psycho-Ceilidh performed with the added bonus of Ruts DC’s Leigh Heggarty as guest guitarist.

And then, Ferocious Dog tore the fucking roof off. This is the first time I’ve seen Ferocious Dog with their new line-up after the departure of Scott Walters and Ellis Waring earlier this year.

Their more than capable replacements in the form of Hung Like Hanratty’s ex-drummer Alex Smith and multi-instrumentalist John Leonard of Seven Little Sisters have fitted in nicely and added their own thing to the mix that is Ferocious Dog.

From the atmospheric intro written and recorded by Hell Hound John James JJ Kirk to the opening notes of ‘Gallows Justice’ through to ‘Mairi’s Wedding Pt II’ and the encore of ‘Paddy On The Railway’ and ‘Slow Motion Suicide’ via ‘Poor, Angry and Young’, ‘Verse For Lee/The Glass/Lee’s Tune’, ‘Ruby Bridges’, ‘Crime and Punishment’, ‘I Stand’, ‘Unconditional’, ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’, ‘Freeborn John’, ‘Hell Hounds’, ‘Criminal Justice’, Blind Leading The Blind’ and ‘Freethinker’ (not in order and a few missing but yeah) the set was non-stop foot-stomping, hand-clapping, Ferocious moshing, heel-to-heeling and toe-to-toeing punk folk at it’s best.

I love the fact that Blind Leading The Blind is reappearing in the set now and that the loss of two very accomplished band members hasn’t meant Ferocious Dog calling it a day. They survived three members leaving before so it was hardly a surprise but I am genuinely delighted that the new line-up sounds so feckin’ good.

There’s life in the old Dog yet.

Ferocious DogWebSite  FacebookPage  FacebookGroup  YouTube  Twitter

NeckWebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter

thanks to Chris for the review, Amy O’D for the photos.

INTRODUCING THE BABES. A NEW LONDON CELTIC PUNK BAND!

Tomorrow seems so far away,

why don’t we live for today?

When yesterday is all said and done,

why don’t we just have some fun?

(directed by Maciej Bąkowski & Lost Data Productions)
Its always great to hear of another London celtic-punk band popping up and when they are as good as The Babes are it’s doubly welcome. The guys met in the IMW sound engineering school in East London. A group of misfits that wanted to play Pogue’s type music that bred in a garage in Twickenham, South West Londonand before too long The Babes were delivered. They play snotty, two fingers in the air Punk Rock with bagpipes. Bringing together Colombian, American and UK backgrounds and featuring ex-members of punk legends Total Chaos and Blitz.
babes

The Babes (Left to Right): Matt Ren Ex: Bass, vocals * Mao Holiday: Bagpipe, vocals * Marvin: Drums * Saul Holden: Guitar

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The Babes Invade Mainland Europe

babes-the-gunners– Feb 11 Bristol,UK @ Chelsea Inn with Disorder
– Feb 13 Paris, FR TBA
– Feb 14 Assen, Holland @ WHPP
– Feb 15 TBA
– Feb 16 Wiesbaden, Germany @ Dotzheimerstarsse 37 65185
– Feb 17 Zwijndrocht, Belgium @ De Smoutpot Cafe. Benefit Party De Vloek, with The End of Ernie, Altered State and Black Heroin
– Feb 18 The Hague, Netherlands @ Verenigging de vinger, Loosduinsekade 725 , 2571 MX
– Feb 19 Schleswig, Germany @ BM Private Party
-Feb 20 Rostock, Germany @ Squad Gig With Hammers of Misfortune, Driller Killer

The Babes also play a headline show next week at The Gunners in north London on Sunday 12th February. The full line up is yet to be finalised but it’s only £3 in and a chance to see the new celtic-punk kids on the block. The Gunners is just a short walk from Arsenal tube station or a slightly longer walk from Finsbury Park tube/rail station. We’ll see you there!

ALBUM REVIEW: STEVE WHITE AND THE PROTEST FAMILY- ‘Protest For Dummies’ (2016)

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.

stevewhiteprotestfamily

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!

steve-white-2

Steve White And The Protest Family (left to right): Steve White- Vocals/Guitars/Harmonica/Percussion * Funky Lol Ross- Guitars/Mandolins/Melodica/Percussion * Doug E.Harper- Bass/Vocals * Russ Chandler- Banjo/Vocals

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.

Steve White And The Protest familyAnd 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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LIVE REVIEW: THE CUNDEEZ IN SOUTH LONDON SEPTEMBER 2016

KEEPIN’ IT OARY DOWN AMONG THE SASSENACHS DAY TWO

by Vincent Mahon

CundeezVegBarColour (2)

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…

Dissent

Dissent

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.

BWC

Black Water County

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.
Cun10Tonight’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.
Cun11And 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

Comrade X  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter  ReverbNation

Dissent  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.

“A CURSE UPON YOU OLIVER CROMWELL…”- PROTEST THE LONDON CROMWELL CELEBRATION

Every year there is a celebration of the life and achievements of the tyrant Oliver Cromwell here in London. This year, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, we will be taking part in a demonstration to say that Oliver Cromwell was a genocidal religious fanatic and butcher of the innocent. A vicious war criminal, a bigot and a man guilty of the worst ethnic cleansing and sex trafficking of unknown amounts of Irish women and children. May his history be re-written and his crimes be writ large for all to see and to remember for all time.

Join us by his statue right next to the Houses Of Parliament (Westminster tube is just a couple of minutes walk) at 1-30pm on Saturday 3rd September and bring flags, banners and placards. A special guest known to many of you will be performing!!

Protest Cromwell

Cromwell and Irish Slavery

The term ‘slavery’ is rarely associated with the white race, although during the 1600’s this was the most significant portion of the market. More specifically, the Irish were targeted the most and the fact that the population of Ireland fell by 850,000 in the space of one decade highlights just how brutal things were.

cromwellhanging

the execution of Cromwell’s dead body

Oliver Cromwell was one of the main reasons why the situation got to this point. His fanatical anti-Catholic views meant that any action he took over the Irish was brutal to say the least and as well as utilising the conquest of Ireland for religious and political means, he was bidding to cleanse the country of Catholics. In achieving this, selling the Irish off as slaves was one of his biggest weapons, but he also made sure life was as difficult as possible for those that did stay by burning off their crops, removing them from their land and sending them to Connacht. Anyone who did not agree with such policies were to be dealt with in the harshest means possible and in most cases, this either resulted in death or being sold to the West Indies as a slave. The fact that the drop in population was so drastic highlights how successful he was with these tactics. Cromwell is most notorious for the victims he burnt alive in St. Peters church in Drogheda, and the civilian and military massacres there, but also the civilian massacres at Wexford. We also have to remember he was responsible for ethnic cleaning that resulted in 50% of the population dying or sold off as slaves in the ten years after his invasion. In 1641, Ireland’s population was 1,466,000 and in 1652, 616,000. According to Sir William Petty (who served Cromwell in Ireland), 850,000 were wasted by the sword, plague, deliberate crop burning, hardship and banishment during the Irish catholic ethnic cleansing between 1641-1652

The main question that is generally posed at this point is why Irish slaves were in demand, when the African slavery market had been the primary ‘sector’, so to speak, for so many years. The answer was simple; money. Even though one could argue that the African’s were much more suited to working in the hot climates of the Caribbean, they still had to be purchased. The Irish on the other hand simply had to be caught or sentenced for transportation and it was therefore much more cost effective. Instead, they were captured before a payment was collected at their destination. The African’s on the other hand usually required two sets of payment, one for the initial purchase and the second for their next sale. Considering the fact that this could bring the total cost of an African slave up to £50, as opposed to the £5 that was generally demanded for white slaves, there was certainly reasoning behind the rise of this ‘sector’. It also meant that Cromwell was well and truly encouraged to adapt his harsh approach, with demand for white slaves clearly evident.

Cromwell’s Influence

child-images

The fact that Cromwell was the mastermind of the vast majority of advances that Britain made into Ireland obviously holds a lot of significance. One of the most notable sieges of Cromwell’s career was the Battle of Drogheda, which resulted in approximately 3,000 Irish being killed. Unfortunately, this was just the start of the ruthlessness and any men that were not killed, were immediately sold to planters in the Barbados. Things were only to get worse though and it’s understood that one of his most ‘fruitful’ achievements during this time was selling 25,000 captured Irish to planters in St. Kitt in 1650. However, most will remember is his brutal disregard for children and it’s thought that through the 1650s he orchestrated the sale of over 100,000 Irish children, some as young as 10, to sell to the Americas. Unsurprisingly, there was a deep religious motive behind this and all of these children were from Catholic families – something that we have already established that Cromwell detested.

While many are under the belief that a lot of Cromwell’s military decision-making was to attempt to gain an upper political hand for Parliament, there are large parts that still revolved purely around white slavery. One of the main reasons he commissioned wars against Holland in 1651 was to monopolize the industry, as Britain were mainly competing with the Dutch. The seizure of Jamaica from Spain in 1655 was performed just as strategically and meant that the English slave trade could become dominant in Jamaica from this point onwards.

Ethnic Cleansing Of Ireland

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However, the biggest move of all concerning white slavery came on 14 August 1652 – the start of Cromwell’s Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland.

Cromwell’s first task was to sell 12,000 Irish prisoners to Barbados although incredibly, this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Upon Cromwell’s ‘To hell or Connaught’ proclamation, the Irish were issued a horrific ultimatum. On 1 May 1654 they were told that they would have to surrender and move to the west of the Shannon, or face the alternative of being sent to the West Indies. The fact that the former was nothing like habitable meant that Irish landowners were put in an impossible situation and many decided to ignore the orders until they were forced to do otherwise.

The reason why Cromwell had opted for such ruthless tactics was because of the value of the Irish land. Soldiers had been told that they would be rewarded with land for their services to the army, while Cromwell had made similar promises to investors who had ultimately funded his exploits in Ireland. Therefore, the country’s failure to respond to his proclamation meant that he must respond in even sterner form. A law was passed on 26 June 1657 declaring that anyone who refused to relocate to the specified location would be sent to the Americas, while anyone who had already banished but was planning on returning would be threatened with death.

Cromwell’s White Slavery Legacy

The above highlights how deep the white slavery problem was becoming, although there’s no doubt that it was the Irish who were mainly affected. Records suggest that Cromwell was behind the sale of approximately 100,000 Irish people including 52,000 women and children, to Barbados and Virginia. It was proving to be a lucrative market for Cromwell to dabble in, but his tenure was absolutely loathed by Ireland. As such, upon his death in 1660, there was great relief – even though the problem of white slavery was certainly not over. In fact, it wasn’t until 1839 when a resolution was sought, and this was only when Britain decided to end slavery once and for all. However, few would disagree that Cromwell’s policies were at the pinnacle of white slavery and this is why his legacy is intensely defended by the English establishment and continues to be reviled by the Irish, Scottish and Catholic communities.

Have you ever walked the lonesome hills
And heard the curlews cry
Or seen the raven black as night
Upon a windswept sky
To walk the purple heather
And hear the westwind cry
To know that’s where the rapparee must die

Since Cromwell pushed us westward
To live our lowly lives
There’s some of us have deemed to fight
From Tipperary mountains high
Noble men with wills of iron
Who are not afraid to die
Who’ll fight with gaelic honour held on high

A curse upon you Oliver Cromwell
You who raped our Motherland
I hope you’re rotting down in hell
For the horrors that you sent
To our misfortunate forefathers
Whom you robbed of their birthright
“To hell or Connaught” may you burn in hell tonight

Of one such man I’d like to speak
A rapparee by name and deed
His family dispossessed and slaughtered
They put a price upon his head
His name is know in song and story
His deeds are legends still
And murdered for blood money
Was young Ned of the hill

You have robbed our homes and fortunes
Even drove us from our land
You tried to break our spirit
But you’ll never understand
The love of dear old Ireland
That will forge and iron will
As long as there are gallant men
Like young Ned of the hill

CundeezVegBarColour (2)

After the demonstration we will of course adjourn to a nearby hostelry for a medicinal or two and then head off to the official aftershow at The Veg Bar in Brixton. A celebration of Irish and Scottish culture with The Cundeez coming down to play their debut London show all the way from Dundee with firm celtic-punk favourites Black Water County also on the bill supported by Kilburn Bomb Squad, the legendary Comrade X and new boys Dissent. No tickets its first in first served fiver on the door. Facebook event page here.

See you at Parliament!

INTERVIEW WITH COMRADE X

Hitting home with the force of a police raid on a late night lock-in at the dodgiest South London boozer Comrade X emerges from the rubble of political failure, X Factor and wall to wall mediocrity to raise a pint of Guinness to the spirit of 1977!
Over the last couple of years it has been our pleasure to make the acquaintance of a good few people, who we are extremely proud to say, have become part of the extended London Celtic Punks family. If you have attended a London Celtic Punks gig over the last few years then I am sure you will have witnessed our auld mucker Comrade X starting off proceedings by kicking up a storm with his own unique brand of acoustic-punk. Best described as “one geezer, one guitar, three chords and the truth” and, my own favourite, “Woody Guthrie meets Oi!” he’s just an ordinary bloke with an acoustic guitar and the truth to tell. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about what he does, but what does he think on the important matters of the day? We asked yer man a few questions over a few pints of stout so read on and find out…
Comrade3

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. 

Comrade1Like most Londoners there’s more than just a drop of Celtic blood coursing through your veins. Do you think that has effected or contributed to how you play or why you play or your beliefs? Well, my grandad was from Kilkenny and arrived in Liverpool sometime in the 1890’s before heading to the East End. Of course I never knew him – he was dead by the time my dad was ten years old and he was orphaned and bought up by his older sister. The family name was changed by my grandad and I only know what my dad and his older brothers told me. Grandad sang rebel songs in pubs around Stepney and his favourite was Bold Robert Emmett so I was told. I think there’s a fair drop of that spirit in what I do. What? Singing rebel songs in a pub? I’d say so!!
Having been in bands and played solo yourself which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music? Biggest influence on me is Joe Strummer – his catalogue from the 101ers to the Mescaleros stands the test of time. The Mescaleros picked up some of Joe’s Celtic connections back to his own Scottish roots. He also introduced a lot of us to Woody Guthrie and through that Leadbelly and some of that deep roots Americana which of course all tracks back through the Celtic immigrant trail. I remember seeing the Pogues in their early days and for loads of us with an Irish/punk background lots of bits started dropping into place. Great to see new bands tipping their hat to that pioneering work by the Pogues and the Men They Couldn’t Hang. The Lagan are the tops for me, that might be a Surrey thing, but they are run close by outfits like Matilda’s Scoundrels and Black Water County. Steve Earle deserves a nod here as well – I was lucky enough to get to work with him a few years back. Top fella
 How you find the London Irish scene these days? Obviously the old community has shrunk and the new arrivals seem, to me anyway, not to be interested in Irish music. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. I certainly hope so. Is there still a community out there? So many pubs have closed or changed and communities are much more dissipated. I’m from Epsom where there used to be five big mental hospitals and they were staffed throughout by Irish immigrants working alongside colleagues from across the Commonwealth. My dad worked his way up to managing and inspecting the quality of those NHS services. Those hospitals have all closed but the social clubs in those places were something else. The sense of community was massive. The loss of those big centres of employment has had an inevitable impact.

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.

Comrade2There’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.

Now London Celtic Punks have always had the by-line of ‘Folk Punk Football’ and football is very dear to your heart as we know. Obviously the modern game is shite and the only real football fans are to be found in the lower divisions and non-league. That about right? ha ha – no, you are completely wrong and modern football, as invented by Sky TV, is brilliant! What’s the matter with you?
How long you been going to Sutton United? Do you think supporting a team that has never really won anything has made you a better person? Does learning the value of defeat and pride in losing but trying your hardest teach you something that is missing in the Premiership or even society? I’ve been going to Sutton since the early seventies. My old man took me down there to try and wean me off Chelsea and a career as a hooligan. He wasn’t totally successful but I always kept a link with the U’s. About ten years ago I jacked in the Chelsea season ticket and now it’s Sutton home and away. I love it. I meet loads of old punks who see the connection with those old values in the non league game. Never won anything? We won the bloody league last season! And did I ever tell you about the time we beat Coventry City in the FA Cup? 
As well as football you are heavily involved in promoting trade unionism. The decline of the unions is a terrible thing but what do you think can be done to reverse that trend. My own union is a waste of space and I may as well throw my money down a drain but as a good friend of mine (a Scouser of course!) once said joining a union is like having house insurance you don’t expect the house to burn down tomorrow but what do you do if it does. I got involved in NUPE in the early eighties when I lost my job as a sparky and took a job as hospital porter. Brilliant days and we were solid as a rock before everything was ripped apart and privatised. You’ve got to have that strength in the workplace or you’ve got nothing.
With so much music in your life. What are your happiest memories of playing. The best gig or best people… Tolpuddle main stage last week was one of my best ever gigs. Strummercamp and that night at the Water Rats with you lot, Anto Morra and Pogue Traders is up there as well. The rest is just a blur of fast living. 
Comrade4Right you have hinted at this every now and then on stage so lets get the full unabridged story out of you now. How did you manage to get Neck’s anti-racist single ‘Every Bodies Welcome To The Hooley’ into the national charts? Ha, that really was the wide boys revenge mate. I pulled in favours with every journo I know and got the band on BBC prime time TV and radio and we had people targeting the record shops that used to file returns for the official chart. It was some proper old spivery and I am rightly proud of it.
What’s the immediate future hold for Comrade X. Any gigs/ festivals we should be looking out for you at? What about recordings. Ain’t it time you got something down on disc… or vinyl’s coming back you know? I’ve got a mate up in Luton who has built an analogue studio and I’ll be doing some recording up there in the autumn – some great shows coming up very shortly with you lot and the Veg Bar, The Lagan at the Fighting Cocks and Undercover Festival. And I will be helping my old mate Noel Martin from Menace with his bands 40th anniversary bash at the 100 Club. I’m enjoying myself and you can tune in through the Comrade X Facebook page.
 

Thanks Comrade for taking the time to answer a few questions. It’s a privilege to include you as a member of the London Celtic Punks crew and work with you over the last few years, so here’s to many many more!
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You can catch Comrade X playing live at our next London Celtic Punks gig later this year on Saturday 3rd September on home territory in South London. He will be supporting Dundee based bagpipe punk band THE CUNDEEz on their London debut gig. All starts at 7-30pm sharp and costs just a fiver on the door. You can check out the Facebook event here to find out all the details of the venue and the other support bands or go to our What’s On- Upcoming Gigs & Events here.
Contact Comrade X

THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY

BY PÁDRAIC GRANT

Shane MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

The Pogues Continuity Splash

The Pogues (formerly Pogue Mahone, Irish Gaelic for ‘kiss my arse’) were formed in 1982 by a group of London Irish musicians eager to drag Irish folk into a musical world that had been changed and redefined by the advent of punk. This mission was to be marked by success and failure, but by 1996 when they officially disbanded, they had permanently left their mark on both folk and mainstream music.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the band through those years was the extensive influence literature had on their lyrics. Rather than simply drawing on certain works for inspiration, almost every lyric in the Pogues extensive repertoire can be traced to a certain area of the written word.

Shane

Leading this literary charge was main songwriter and ideologue Shane MacGowan, who’d come through punk emboldened by its ideals, but distraught by its mainstream assimilation. The catalogue of songs penned by MacGowan regularly evokes previous writers and styles, often twisted and placed in new frameworks. Indeed, most of his lyrics are as intellectually stimulating when read as poems and stories as when performed as full songs.

From the moment he began penning songs, MacGowan was artistically indebted to his Irish homeland, a fact reflected in both music and lyrics. Literary touchstones spanned the Irish spectrum—Brendan Behan, James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Flann O’Brien, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, and James Stephens were drawn from and their influence incorporated into his burgeoning songbook. While the idea of the songwriter-as-poet is often evoked in a clichéd (even insulting) manner to give certain artists ‘credibility’, MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

As the band gained further success and the other members began to substantially contribute to the lyrics, concerted attempts were made to avoid stagnancy. Eventually, the collective focus fundamentally changed in ways that would have massive effects on the group. Extraneous reference points began to dominate, with the music switching to a menagerie of world music styles, and the lyrics drawing from non-Irish, less literary sources. This fragmentation would afterwards be cited by MacGowan as one of the biggest reasons for his estrangement from the other members of the band.

TRADITION REANIMATED

Going back to the band’s formative years, an important reason for the band’s very existence was a fervent desire to reiterate the aspects of Irish folk music that ran contrary to the sophisticate persona espoused by the dominant elements of ‘80s music. From the stale by-products of 70’s AOR who had somehow got through the post-punk safety net (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel) to the New Romantics with their synthetic music and lifestyle, the Pogues sought to challenge the status quo by injecting a sense of danger into Irish folk, thereby returning Irish folk to the mainstream. This was to be achieved through a heady mix of punk and folk, filtered through a coarse, unrefined aesthetic. And with virtually no electric instruments (Cait O’Riordan’s bass guitar was a notable exception) and a minimalist bass/snare drum kit, the contrast with mainstream instrumentation was glaring.

Despite this, perhaps the freshest aspect of the re-named Pogues was the literary quality of their original songs. Amongst volatile renditions of traditional standards nestled originals composed in the same style, infused with a punk-derived radicalism that brought the band beyond mere rehashed folk. The London-Irish composition of the group meant that its Irish influences were viewed through the lens of cosmopolitan London, and the city would go on to be the focus of numerous songs by the band.

Red Roses For Me

Gaining a reputation through relentless touring, they signed to the independent Stiff Records in 1984. The first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, was released in October of that year, and was an underground success despite its poor mainstream showing. Critical attention focused on the burgeoning lyrical talents of Shane MacGowan as much as on the music. Taking its title from a late-era Sean O’Casey play, the album offered a demonstration of MacGowan’s continuity with Irish writers past. The Irish identification was even carried onto the album art: A portrait of the band members seated around a painting of John F. Kennedy, a symbol of solidarity with the Irish diaspora across the world.

O’CASEY AND SOCIALISM

Aside from bestowing the album with a name, O’Casey was influential stylistically. The lyrics on ‘Red Roses for Me’ focused on the lives of the 1980s working class in the same way O’Casey portrayed the proletariat of the early 1900’s. A lifelong communist and Republican dissident, his portrayals were combined with his socialist beliefs to demonstrate the inherently political nature of working class life. Similarly, the debut Pogues LP illustrates the impact of wider political processes on mundane reality.

Sean O'Casey

Sean O’Casey

While avoiding overt left-wing sloganeering, the anti-authoritarian approach evident in certain tracks was intensified by the experience of Thatcherite Britain, where harsh monetarism had led to the working class feeling persecuted by the ruling Conservative Party. This sense of injustice was given credence by the Miner’s Strike occurring the same year the album was released, an event that embodied opposition to the implementation of profit-driven neo-liberalism. Under such circumstances, the sense of anger present in ‘Red Roses for Me’ is easily read as a reflection of the labour class’s embittered undercurrent, manifesting itself in several songs on the album.

The opening song, ‘Transmetropolitan’, is a conspicuous example of this attitude. Both tribute to and attack on the city of London, the composition is a contradiction. The music is frenetically gleeful, while the lyrics veer from a celebration of London life to a bitter attack on the pillars of the British establishment:

There’s leechers up in Whitehall
And queers in the GLC
And when we’ve done those bastards in
We’ll storm the BBC.

Whitehall (the home of the British government, the GLC (Greater London Council), and the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) represented the stale powers-that-be, a focus for bitter resentment. That the enemy was the suitably vague “establishment” was a by-product of the band’s punk roots, a recurring and pervasive influence that sat comfortably alongside the anti-authority stance of the writers inspiring the group.

BEHAN AND BLACK COMEDY

Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

Despite the O’Casey reference in the title and the similarities shared in the portrayal of working class existence, it is clear that Brendan Behan is the dominant influence on ‘Red Roses for Me’. ‘The Auld Triangle’, an Irish standard adapted from the introduction to the Behan play ‘The Quare Fellow’, is the third track on the album and a marked contrast to the rest of what is an ultimately raucous record.  It’s stark, skeletal, and relies primarily on MacGowan’s vocals. The mood is despondent and the lyrics wistful, but lightened by occasionally humourous lines (a literary technique MacGowan adopted in his own writing, which often includes comedic moments in the midst of squalor). This aspect of his songcraft would later be explored and refined on ‘Rum, Sodomy & the Lash’.

‘The Boys from the County Hell’ is the most precise example of punk’s influence on the album. Upping the ante on ‘Transmetropolitan’, it’s a vicious exploration of the alcohol-fuelled violence of the urban London lifestyle (the city termed ‘County Hell’ in a translation bearing the mark of Irish geographical terminology), and a further fleshing out of MacGowan’s songwriting, recalling the unflinching portrayal of violence in Irish tradition. Coming from that lineage, it contains one of his most blackly humourous couplets:

My daddy was a Blueshirt and my mother a madam.
My brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam.

‘Streams of Whiskey’ carries the Behan obsession to new heights, encapsulating MacGowan’s adoration of the man in one song. The lyrics depict a conversation held with Behan in a dream. When asked about his views on the “crux of life’s philosophies”, he answers: “I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing”. This ‘philosophy’ manages to make alcoholism sound almost idealistic—after all, it concerns a person who once quipped

“I’m a drinker with a writing problem”

Flann O'Brien

Flann O’Brien

‘Streams of Whiskey’ is also a buried reference to Flann O’Brien—a pseudonym for Brian O’Nolan, who MacGowan cited as one of his favourite authors in ‘A Drink with Shane MacGowan’.  O’Brien’s ‘The Poor Mouth’ (originally published in Gaelic as ‘An Beal Bocht’) includes a story regarding a mountain with two streams of whiskey flowing at its summit. A brilliant satire of Ireland’s victim mentality, the novel is built on, as with most of O’Brien’s works, an absurdly funny plot and writing style that Shane MacGowan emulated throughout his time in the Pogues.

NEW STRUCTURES

‘Red Roses for Me’ may have received praise for its literate lyrics, but the following year’s ‘Rum, Sodomy And the Lash’ was the moment where the Pogues songcraft truly blossomed. From post-modern character realignment to minutely-detailed narratives, the many facets of Irish literature are explored and amalgamated into a work that reads like an overview of the canon.

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

As the opening track for the album, ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ is a significant song in more than one respect. Not only does it demonstrate the cleaner production and more thought-out arrangements of the record as a whole, but most importantly the progression of MacGowan’s songwriting. As a character, Cúchulainn (a legendary Celtic warrior and son of the god Lugh) was a towering figure in Irish storytelling, regularly recurring in stories up to and including the Celtic Revival of the late 19th century. While The Pogues stick to this tradition, the song that bears his name is a sober modernisation of the monolith; a demonstration of the continuity held with preceding Irish literature, but a strong statement of realist rather than mythic characterisation.

This approach to the protagonist is similar to the proto-postmodernism of Flann O’Brien in novels such as ‘The Third Policeman’ and ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’, which dragged characters such as the mythic Fionn MacCumhaill into a contemporary setting. Thus ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ styles the character not as a demi-god, but in the flawed guise of the socialist IRA leader Frank Ryan. Appearing alongside the singers John McCormack and Richard Tauber, Cuchulainn is an unacknowledged hero, a participant on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War (as was Frank Ryan in reality.) Cuchulainn’s illustrious status in Celtic folklore is contrasted with the more human heroism of the unacknowledged Ryan, an anti-fascist who later faced the ignominy of death in a Nazi submarine. “You decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids” and “We’ll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks” serve as MacGowan’s tribute to a man whose heroism was to stand against the fascist tide in an Irish nation still in thrall to the Catholic Church.

That this depiction is in complete contrast to the Cúchulainn of William Butler Yeats may not be coincidental. MacGowan’s opinion of Yeats is derisory at best: “[Yeats wrote] a few classics…but there’s a mammoth amount of work…there’s like books and books and books of his stuff, and there’s about three or four good poems.” (A Drink with Shane MacGowan) The negative sentiments might also be inspired by Yeats’s championing of aristocratic ideas and (later retracted, as the Second World War approached) support for Irish and European fascism, something that was later also criticised by George Orwell.

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

Eerily slow-burning after the preceding frenzy, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is a torrid narrative recounting the struggles of a male prostitute in seedy London. MacGowan’s evolution as a lyricist may have been obvious on ‘The Sickbed of Cúchulainn’, but only a truly adept wordsmith could forge the themes of drugs, prostitution, and police brutality into such an easily engrossing story. Accompanied by almost hypnotic musical repetitions, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is replete with characteristic attention to detail:

One evening as I was lying down by Leicester Square
I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls
Between the metal doors at Vine Street I was beaten and mauled
And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag.

In later years, this song would be offered as ‘evidence’ that MacGowan had worked as a hustler. Although it may be a common assumption that realist first person narratives must be based on something experienced by the author, in MacGowan’s case the supposition could have been caused by the debt his style owed to writers like Frank O’Connor. A short story author of great magnitude, O’Connor wrote essentially autobiographical stories in the guise of characters like Larry Delaney, recounting childhood events rich in detail and evocative of the conservative Ireland of the early 20th century.

Frank O'Connor

Frank O’Connor

MacGowan similarly recounted stories heavy on minutia, but as far removed from bucolic rural Ireland as could be possible. When people read the lyrics of songs like “The Old Main Drag”, the easy interpretation was that due to the attention to detail inherited from writers like O’Connor, MacGowan was channelling his real life experiences through the characters in his writing. As with many issues surrounding the Pogues, though, there is no firm answer regarding the truth of these rumours. The sheer number of contradictions is similar to the fog around MacGowan’s eventual dismissal by the group.

BUILDING AN IDENTITY

Another highlight from the album is the quixotic ballad ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, one of the more sentimental songs performed by the band. However, like everything MacGowan wrote in this period, it is laced with the typical dark elements that prevent it from becoming merely saccharine. Therefore, while the song laments the “streams, the rolling hills, where his brown eyes were waiting” or “The birds whistling in the trees / Where the wind was gently laughing”, the protagonist is also “drunk to hell”, the setting filled with men who “prayed, cursed, and bled some more”.

In this moment, Shane MacGowan established an identity—one adapted from past writers (the contrast between sweet sentimentality and darker elements, humour intercepting both, a hallmark of Irish writing from Behan to Beckett), but an identity nonetheless. This proved a blessing and a curse, for while the positive comparisons were no doubt welcome, others were beginning to wonder if the Pogues, and Shane MacGowan in particular, had inherited the predisposition for alcohol held by the writers they admired. Press attention would lead to the stereotyping of the band as alcoholic Irishmen (particularly in an infamous Sounds’ article written around the release of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ as a single), a perception made even more believable by other songs, including ‘Sally MacLennane’.  Similar to older folk songs about the return of a person to their hometown (a theme also touched upon in ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, written by the Irish literature-influenced Phil Lynott), the song is an ode to the joys of alcohol with nearly every verse containing a reference to drinking.

Much of the band’s catalogue is the same, and with their love for writers who also enjoyed a drink (not forgetting their Irish background), it was inevitable that they would be included in the ‘drunken Irish artist’ stratum. In the ‘Sounds’ article mentioned above, Spider Stacy remarked, “I drink to blot out drunkenness”. A quick retort to an over-bearing journalist it may have been, but in the years to come such excesses would prove to be the undoing of the band. But before that point, there was much glory and still more ignominy to come.

‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ was a crucial step forward for the group. Moving on from the lyrically-constrained ‘Red Roses for Me’, which had been somewhat straightforward in its subject matter, the incorporation of differing stylistic approaches made this album a milestone for the incorporation of literary methods into modern Irish folk music. Over the coming years, the subjects would become more expansive, the music more extravagant. Here, the Pogues would achieve the perfect balance of tradition and innovation in their songwriting, the democratic ideal prominent since the beginning would finally flourish, and commercial success would be assured.

NEW DEPARTURES

This phase began with the release of the ‘Poguetry in Motion’ EP in 1986. Comprised of four wildly varying tracks, the EP worked as a bridge between the boisterous folk of before and a new, heavily-orchestrated style embodied by ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’ (significantly, in all respects a masterpiece). Both styles would be followed up on proceeding albums, but the EP is interesting as a microcosm of the band’s musical past and future, and their sense of humour, with the instrumental ‘Planxty Noel Hill’ a swipe at the eponymous musician and member of the folk aristocracy in Ireland.

Taking part in a radio debate with the Pogues, Hill had referred to their music as a “terrible abortion” and as disrespectful to traditional norms. The ‘planxty’ in the title is a traditionally honourific prefix dating back to the 1600s, and serves as a rejoinder to Hill, a tongue-in-cheek espousal of the ultimate traditionalist form. ‘London Girl’ and ‘Body Of An American’ rounded off the release and are notable because of their respective connotations of ‘Red Roses For Me’ and ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’-era material. Clamorous, intelligent, romantic, iconoclastic, the EP was a bookend for what had come before, and a torch-bearer for what was to come next.

Two years later, 1988 saw the release of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, a new departure in several areas. The lyrics are more far-reaching than ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’, yet remain within the realms of Irish tradition. From the pleasures of a win at the dog tracks to the laments of the Irish diaspora in America, and even the first overtly political songs of the band’s discography, the subjects expand far beyond the character studies and narratives of the first two releases. It even sounds more sprawling, the appearance of a full drum kit and session accompaniment seeming like sheer opulence compared to the thriftiness of before. Two new members make their debuts: multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods (formerly of the legendary folk-rock bands Sweeney’s Men and Steeleye Span) and Daryl Hunt (replacing the outgoing Cait O’Riordan). The inclusion of jazz and indigenous Spanish and Middle-Eastern folk would sound more shocking had they not been woven so brilliantly into Irish music forms, the mock-sitars of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ countered by ‘The Lark in the Morning’, a traditional jig that ended the song, and the faux-jazz ‘Metropolis’ and its prominent horns disarmed by mid-tempo folk verses.

J.P. Donleavy

J.P. Donleavy

Commercial success was confirmed with the release of ‘Fairytale of New York’. Written by MacGowan and Jem Finer, it shares both a title and subject with J.P. Donleavy’s novel ‘A Fairytale of New York’, both works regarding the pursuit of the American dream and, tentatively, the experiences of the Irish diaspora. The merits of the song lie in its exploration of relationships and their intricacies, how they span place and era and how external bickering can mask deep affection. MacGowan is accompanied on the track by Kirsty MacColl, in the guise of a woman whose hopes for a life of prosperity lie dead, shattered by the very person who embodied them. The duet examines the dreams, the shattering, and finally the redemption, like a short story where a monumental topic is condensed, and benefits as a result. A technicolour version of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, a romantic song that remains solidly realist (as the input of MacGowan ensured), the song was only kept off the top spot by the poor ‘Always on My Mind’ cover by the Pet Shop Boys. It has since become a Christmas standard, and the most well-known demonstration of the Pogues’ songwriting skill.

POLITICAL MILITANCY

The subject of Irish Republicanism and the conflict in Ireland was a popular focus for folk groups during the ‘80s, a contemporary issue of great importance socially and culturally. The Pogues explicitly explored this for the first time on ‘If I Should Fall’. Grounded in personal conviction and a long literary tradition, the Pogues were unashamedly Republican, and indeed at an early stage held the moniker the New Republicans. These beliefs manifest themselves in the medley ‘Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six’. Musically, little links the two songs, but the subject matter is related through its exploration of the ongoing war between the IRA and British forces in Ireland.

‘Streets of Sorrow’, a stark, emotional lament for the war-torn streets of cities like Belfast and Derry, urban areas scarred by the trauma of ongoing war, is immediately followed by the passionate anger of ‘Birmingham Six’, despondency exploding into rage against a Government viewed as oppressive and racist:

There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there’s four,
They were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law.
And the filth got promotion,
But they’re still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time.

The Loughgall Martyrs

The Loughgall Martyrs

Naturally enough, the song was banned by the BBC, continuing a torrid relationship between the band and the corporation. As a medley, the song works perfectly: A distillation of the anguish caused by the Irish conflict and the unbridled anger at a British Government the Republicans viewed as the cause of their problems. That the Pogues held controversial opinions was not in doubt. At the time, the only mainstream voices were those of outright condemnation of the IRA on the one hand, or outright silence on the other. In that spirit, there is more than mere protest in ‘Birmingham Six’, with the final verse containing a reference to the Loughgall Martyrs, eight IRA volunteers killed while attacking a Royal Ulster Constabulary police barracks:

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads,
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head.

Again, there was a literary precedent for the group’s political views, with Brendan Behan, Frank O’Connor, and Ernie O’Malley among the writers who had actively participated in the IRA and expounded upon their views in writing. The theme would be taken up again in later songs like ‘Young Ned of the Hill’ and ‘Rainbow Man’.

POSTMODERN MYTHOLOGY

Another new topic for the band was the role of mythology in Irish life. ‘Sit Down by the Fire’ is a comic take on this tradition:

Sit down by the fire, and I’ll tell you a story
To send you away to your bed.
Of the things you hear creeping
When everyone’s sleeping
And you wish you were out here instead.

The Riders of the Sidhe, by John Duncan

‘The Riders of the Sidhe’ by John Duncan

Lyrically, the focus is on the fairies, or ‘sidhe’, that haunted Irish imagination for centuries, and still persist in popular superstition. MacGowan has long found the idea of parents telling these terrifying stories to children at bedtime as comical, an absurdity built into Irish life for centuries.

The song’s subject matter is interesting because it shows the group exploring the area of folklore (despite its monolithic status pre-20th century, folklore had never been a big concern for the band) while also stepping back from it. This separates such an exploration from the misty-eyed renderings of other more literal folk-rock acts like The Horslips, who had created concept albums based around Celtic mythology. It also continues the motif of postmodernism from MacGowan, the song being a meta-narrative about the telling of a folk tale rather than a simple rendition.

BEYOND IRELAND

While it may have been expected that the band would bask in the critical acclaim of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, this wasn’t to be the case. MacGowan’s alcoholism had progressed beyond being a mere nuisance, and the other members were becoming disgruntled. Worried that MacGowan was hitting the gutter, just as Behan had before, and more willing to take advantage of the democratic songwriting ideals the band had been founded upon, the songwriting representation from the rest of the band would increase on future albums.

This process was immediately visible on 1989’s ‘Peace And Love’. MacGowan’s declining influence was indicated by the (comparatively) paltry six songs he contributed to the 14-track record. The new songwriting arrangements made for instant change, the first surprise coming with the introductory instrumental ‘Gridlock’. An exploration of hard bop jazz and an uncompromising repudiation of folk, the song differs thematically from anything performed by the band before. However, the song that defines the negative side of this experimentation best is the bizarre Celtic-Caribbean fusion of ‘Blue Heaven’, a reprehensible song with the Calypso pretensions suffocating any melodic inventiveness; a situation that occurs with saddening periodicity in the band’s later catalogue. Even the Irish folk songs sound bland and enervated, an alarming regression from the band’s original desire to invigorate the style.

Despite portraying himself as the arch traditionalist during this era, Shane MacGowan was not, in fact, conducting a one man crusade against the pretentious designs of his fellow band members. He had likewise introduced extraneous influences into the pure folk of before. As noted by Simon Reynolds in ‘Generation Ecstasy’, rumours abound that, having become immersed in the acid house scene, he wished to include a 20-minute appropriation of the genre (titled ‘You’ve Got to Contact Yourself’) onto ‘Peace And Love’. Whether there is any truth to this is again unknown, but what is audible fact is the bizarre Motown stomp of ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’, released as an EP following ‘Peace And Love. While two collaborations with the legendary Dubliners are included, this appears to be an almost apologetic move. Unfortunately, the cover of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ would require much greater atonement than that.

ENGROSSED IN EUROPE

‘Hell’s Ditch’ seemed like the final break with the Pogues of before. Although containing some fine songs grounded in the same folk stylings (‘Sunnyside of the Street’, ‘Hell’s Ditch’), it sounds uninspiring and even conventional in parts—as pedestrian as the ‘celtic fusion’ peddled by acts like the Saw Doctors or The Waterboys, and not helped by the sterile production courtesy of Joe Strummer. Most substantially, the Irish element was downplayed massively; it was simply another amongst the other myriad styles of ‘world music’.

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

This extended to the lyrical elements, too, but in a vastly more positive way. MacGowan’s contributions were fresh and informed by a different aesthetic from the Irish folk of before, transporting the narrative style to exotic characters and locales from further afield on the European continent. The title track’s debt to Jean Genet manifested itself in a snapshot narrative, stark prison imagery wrapped in an overtly-sexual veneer:

The killer’s hands are bound with chains
At six o’clock it starts to rain
He’ll never see the dawn again
Our lady of the flowers

Verses describing death and squalor (like those above) are juxtaposed with others like:

Genet’s feeling Ramon’s dick
The guy in the bunk above gets sick

This is a structural trick that jars the listener and underlines the debt to the novel ‘Our Lady Of The Flowers’. In common with the Irish influences of before, Genet celebrated the lowlife, the disenfranchised, and those who refused to conform to societal norms, but in a more explicit manner that questioned the values society encouraged and celebrated.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca

Aside from Jean Genet, the spectre of Federico Garcia Lorca also informed the album. Like ‘Sickbed of Cuchulainn’, ‘Lorca’s Novena’ deals with modern heroism against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Backed by an eerie, dread-inducing combination of heavy bass and martial drums, the song tells of how the homosexual poet met his death at the hands of Franco’s nationalists. It’s not only the horrific circumstances of the poet’s death that justify the sinister vibes, but the wider context of a fascist victory that would ensure the legitimisation of such reprehensible deeds.

The final song of ‘Hell’s Ditch’, ‘Six to Go’, is an aural tombstone to the MacGowan Pogues, a condensed form of all the musical and conceptual contradictions that would contribute to its demise. Concerned with the six counties of Ireland which remain under the political control of Britain, it includes what sounds alarmingly like clichéd tribal chanting, an Africa found by way of ‘The Lion King’ rather than anti-colonial solidarity. In common with other songs of this era (‘Blue Heaven’, ‘Summer in Siam’, ‘Five Green Queens And Jean’), the solid core ends up ruined rather than enhanced by its exotic trappings.

The positive impact of the international influences on ‘Hell’s Ditch’ is confined solely to the lyrics, which flourish and give the Hibernian focus of the first three albums a sense of context, placing Ireland amongst the other great literary nations of the world, rather than resorting to the Irish chauvinism jokingly played up (particularly by MacGowan) in interviews. If the music had gone the same way, perhaps the culmination of stylistic disparity and substance abuse wouldn’t have led to the decision to kick MacGowan from the band as a whole.

After the disintegration of the original line up, the remaining members regrouped to make two further albums: 1993’s ‘Waiting for Herb’ and 1996’s ‘Pogue Mahone’). Yet without MacGowan at the lyrical helm, the collective lacked the cutting edge they had once possessed. Hence, while the two discs have their moments, they lack charisma and the sense of energy that defines the earlier albums, not to mention that they continue the terrible world music flirtations that marred the last two MacGowan albums. However, by the time of the band’s official demise in 1996, their influence was beginning to be felt in a big way.

LANGUAGE AND CLASS

When evaluating their overall influence, the Pogues use of language cannot be ignored, and it betrayed more than a small debt to Irish literature. In his essay regarding Yeats, George Orwell points out the difficulty of equating ideology with a writer’s style. He notes that Yeats’s attempts at simplistic writing appear convoluted, giving the example of the following verse from ‘An Acre of Grass’

Grant me an old man’s frenzy,
Myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Orwell calls attention to the word ‘that’ before William Blake’s name as an attempt at conveying familiarity by utilising forced prosody, a co-option of the language of the lower classes negated by the poet’s aristocratic tendencies. When the Pogues lyrics are analysed in a similar way, the opposite conclusion is clear: the lyrics are unforced and authentic, intelligent but unpretentious. ‘Dark Streets of London’ is an effortlessly figurative example of this

“I like to walk in the summer breeze
Down Dalling Road by the dead old trees
And drink with my friends
In the Hammersmith Broadway
Dear dirty delightful old drunken old days”

The quality of such writing is that it makes the quotidian seem otherworldly through common poetic methods like alliteration. The tongue-twisting last line reads like something written by Gerard Manley Hopkins rather than an extract from a popular music song. Coming at the dawn of their career, such examples would become commonplace for the band, a musical fulfilment of Orwell’s proletarian artistic vision.

IRISH POST-COLONIALISM

Interpreted through the lens of post-colonialism, the band offer an intriguing range of interpretations, and indeed contradictions. Firstly, the very fact that they were composed primarily of London-born musicians would seem to render their status as Irish music icons quite hollow, an easy target as ‘musical imperialists’ plundering the vaults of a rich tradition. This allegation is easily refuted, however, the band’s members were all of Irish heritage, some even born there and with strong connections to the island.

In a more elaborate sense, the very foundations of the group immunise them from such attacks. By attempting to modernise folk, adhering to its roots but emphasising areas neglected by other artists, such as attitude and literary merit, the Pogues (in their early stages at least) helped save Irish folk from becoming a marginal strand of the ‘world music’ scene. This was in marked contrast to other groups, such as Moving Hearts, who from the beginning merged folk with jazz and rock styles. If this interpretation is accepted, then consequently Shane MacGowan’s criticism of the post-‘If I Should Fall’ immersion in world music becomes easier to accept as well. After all, when the theoretical grounding they had started with began to dissolve, the songs became less distinguished and more conventional, consumed within the quagmire of the cultural buffet of world music and generic folk-rock.

The Pogues And The Dubliners

The Pogues And The Dubliners

Another barrier against such attacks is to take the opposite conclusion: the Pogues as the products of an Ireland that has throughout its history assimilated invaders and immigrants into the native society. While historically there had been fierce resistance to such absorption, at certain points the cultures of the native and colonial Irish inevitably coalesced. The greatest manifestation of this was in the Celtic dawn of the late 19th century, when a vast re-discovery of Gaelic Ireland was expressed through modern literary and performance techniques. Writers like Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory (despite the mockery afforded them from MacGowan) worked to create a distinctly Irish literature, not dependant on wider developments within Britain for inspiration.

Important as an explicitly nationalist rejection of cultural imperialism, the Irish literary revival’s reverberations continued throughout the 20th century. As the 21st century approached, there were intimations that the cultural dependency had been reversed to a certain extent. The post-colonial literary theorist Declan Kiberd writes:

“When Daniel Day-Lewis pronounced his win at the Oscars [for his portrayal of Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’] a triumph for Ireland, he effectively dismantled the English-when-they-win, Irish-when-they-lose equation. But he chose Irishness just as much as the Anglo-Normans did before him: in neither case was it forced upon a hapless victim”

This was but one example of the increasing prevalence of Irish (or faux-Irish) content in popular culture in the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s, alongside films like ‘The Commitments’ and productions including ‘Riverdance’. The Pogues’ role in this reversal is interesting, because while in terms of location they were primarily English, they were possibly the most fervent purveyors of ‘Irishness’ amongst their Celtic cultural contemporaries, musically and in content. That it took a band located in England to re-assert Irish music’s place in popular music (rather than confined to the folk sidelines) says a lot about Ireland’s unusual place along the path of post-colonialism, the mass emigration that occurred mainly as a consequence of colonial exploitation has rendered its culture stronger in areas other than its origin. Following their artistic forebears, the Pogues contribution to post-colonialism has been to re-establish Irish identity (in the form of music and text) as having something to offer beyond novelty or the margins, as a vibrant player on the international stage.

CELTIC PUNK AND A WIDER INFLUENCE

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly

The mid-90’s saw the emergence of a host of (primarily American) bands largely influenced by The Pogues musical, lyrical and conceptual qualities. The fact that this scene has grown so vast as to require an article (or a book) of its own is testament to the inspiration legions of acts have taken from the band, but the two most popular acts, critically and commercially, are undoubtedly Flogging Molly and The Dropkick Murphys.

The former takes their cue from all eras of the Pogues, while including conventional instrumentation like the electric guitar (‘Another Bag of Bricks’ even usurps the Middle-Eastern influences of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ in a garishly conspicuous way.) Albums including ‘Swagger’ and ‘Drunken Lullabies’ share thematic subjects with the Pogues, abundant in references to Irish history and politics, including the important role of the Catholic Church. Dropkick Murphys differ from Flogging Molly by mixing their folk with prominent ‘Oi!’ influences. This has led to a blatant espousal of working class socialism more explicit than that ever referred to in Pogues songs. Making visible their debt to the Pogues, the band even had MacGowan appear as a guest vocalist on ‘Good Rats’ from 2001’s ‘Sing Loud, Sing Proud’.

Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

While Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys may be the most important bands deriving stylistic influences from the Pogues, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The celtic punk scene has spread from its main base in America all around the world, a common motif of the hybrid being Pogues covers, homages, and references, a musical movement equivalent to the Irish diaspora’s diffusion on a global scale. Beyond this scene, the group’s influence has extended to areas more mainstream than the largely underground punk circuit.

On a global level, Irish folk became a visible presence in popular culture by the early 90’s, albeit in watered-down forms like ‘Riverdance’ and ‘The Corrs’, which bore scant relation to the music or ethos of the Pogues. It’s hard to say whether such acts can even be considered as musically influenced by the Pogues, but it is certain that the Pogues chart success the laid the foundations for mainstream assimilation of Celtic music by popularising it in the first place. So while songs like ‘Fairytale of New York’ and ‘The Irish Rover’ can’t be counted as direct influences upon mainstream exports, they can be considered torch bearers for their cultural phenomena.

MacGOWAN’S CURRENT STANDING

So where do the Pogues stand today? While other members of the band made vast contributions to the group and Irish folk, it is MacGowan who remains famous in the mainstream. Portrayed in the press as a stereotypical drunken Irish poet, a boozed-up bohemian associated with other artists known for their excesses (especially Pete Doherty of the Libertines and Babyshambles), he is also increasingly lauded as a genius songwriter by sources as mainstream as the NME and The Guardian.

Since the full reformation of the band in 2001, these laudatory sentiments have only increased, a result of the now-legendary status afforded to the band’s performances. Inevitably, the media has commented on the continuity between his ‘literary drunk’ status and artists of the same vintage who preceded him. MacGowan even doggedly champions Coleridge over Wordsworth, believing the latter’s work to be inferior on an artistic level, but his fondness for Coleridge also lies in the Romantic’s famous use of opium.

It’s a pattern that remains a constant through all the Pogues albums, the championing of the underdog cast aside by society, and that is the role MacGowan has taken for himself. Whether writing in the guise of a person experiencing the euphoria of winning a bet, the solitary child terrified by ghouls of their parent’s making, or the railway workers toiling and dying without recognition, he imparts a personal touch that is ultimately the real affinity he shares with the writers he admires. Frank O’Connor, Brendan Behan, Flann O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Mannix Flynn, authors MacGowan maintains have lived; the same underclass he immortalises in his own writing. Ultimately, he has emulated them in his own life and gained similar recognition, hailed not only as a musician, but as a legitimate and important contributor to the continuing evolution of Irish writing.

PopMatters

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*originally published on the marvellous Pop Matters web site.

PopMatters is an international magazine of cultural criticism. Our scope is broadly cast on all things pop culture, and our content is updated daily. We provide intelligent reviews, engaging interviews, and in-depth essays on most cultural products and expressions in areas such as music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet.

* if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a stack of great articles on them-

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’  here 

‘30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time’ here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

‘Red Roses For Me And Me’  here

‘Film Review: I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’  here

‘Book Review: Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen’  here

‘The Pogues On Mastermind- The Questions’  here

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