Twisted gypsy punk, revved up pirate shanties, dark folk, ska, punk, dark cabaret, Southern gothic, a bit of steampunk, a bit of darkness, a bit of coarse music hall banter and a lot of drunkenness. The second full-length album from The Filthy Spectacula with thirteen more songs of death, debauchery and drinking that are sure get you dancing.
The story of The Filthy Spectacula begins on a dark and stormy night in late 2014 when a group of vagabonds meet to swap stories, drink absinthe and make music. They were on to something and took to travelling around and making new stories together. Some got left at various ports along the way, but other riff-raff were eagerly waiting in the shadows to join this travelling circus. They released their debut album a couple of years ago Thrup’ny Upright which is available from the band but you can also get a free sampler of the album containing three tracks at the Bandcamp link below.
Details on The Filthy Spectcula are sketchy but having wowed audiences across Britain and played alongside this countries (and Canadas) best Folk-Punk bands as well as having been asked by Ed Milliband to “turn it down please” it seems nothing can slow down this marauding crew of lyrical lunatics. The Howl Of The Underclasses kicks off with the gloriously ramshackle ‘The Dirty Dog’. Fiddle and accordion are shoved up front and Mr E’s vocals lead the way with a eastern flavoured tune that we may call ramshackle but is from it in reality. Tuneful and as catchy as syphilis the album is peppered with references to the sea, death, debauchery and drinking and songs that would get even the stoniest of faces (me) smiling and the leaden of feet (also me!) dancing. Telling of one of London’s dingiest drinking dens.
” We who drown our sorrows in this dirty hole can forget brighter tomorrows”
Next up is my favourite of the album and the Eastern approach has gone for a more traditional folk-punk tune it is UNBELIEVABLY catchy and if catchy is the word that all record reviewers hate the most their really is no alternative . ‘Bedlam Hallelujah’ has such a great but dark ‘ska-ish’ beat it is sure to get you moving. The times that The Filthy Spectacula inhabit are those of Victorian slums and serial killers stalking the London streets and times when everyone drank Gin and did they must to survive. ‘Oh Cynthia’ is a twisted love song and that word from earlier rears its head again. Mr E has a very distinctive vocal style that fits perfectly and the band flit from gypsy to ska to new wave effortlessly. ‘Women And Children First’ is the cry of the shipwreck where men were and are still expected to stay on the sinking ship.
“If it’s you or I I’m going to stay alive”
A very nice accordion solo from The Blacksmith is followed by a fiddle solo from Miss Tea and already a quarter of the way through and every song has been outstanding. What the album lacks for in ‘Celtic-ness’ (this is after all a Celtic music site) does not take away from the album at all and would be up the street of the majority of our readers. ‘Our Dirty Little Secret’ returns to to the East and has a sort of Cossack feel to it and you can imagine men with folded arms bouncing up and down to this song about prostitution and grave robbing. It is thought that roughly 80,000 women were working as prostitutes in London alone during the Victorian era. On ‘Rum’ they pay tribute to the sailors drink of choice. Rum was routinely given to sailors right up to the 1970’s on Royal Navy ships. ‘Casanova With A Social Disease‘ finally sees the band in Celtic-Punk territory and by heavens they rock it. A short, sharp and sweet rocker with a nice bit of black humour
“I’m not loves young dream, I’m not as I seem”
‘The Hearse Song’ slows it down and that black humour is evident again and with a wee nod to The Pogues too.
We are back on the oceans again and ‘Tyrants of the Seven Seas’ is just Mr E and acoustic guitar and tells of the excitement of piracy. For many it was an escape from from the cruel conditions on board merchant and navy ships and a chance to be treated as equals in a time when the working classes were seen as a separate race. ‘One Step Closer’ is a heavier number despite its bouncy ska beat the accordion gives it an appropriate dark feel. ‘She Wants Me (Dead)’ has a Poguesy feel circa Hell’s Ditch with it’s strong accordion lead and dark lyrics.
‘Seas of Stupidity’ is another standout and they closing down the album well with the albums rockiest song.. A real foot stomper this one and catchy as hell! So that just leaves ‘Dear Judas’ to bring down the curtain on The Howl Of The Underclasses and at nearly six minutes its the albums epic. A risky strategy seeing as even though the albums songs all hover around four minutes one thing you could say about them is that they are punchy and don’t tend to overstay their welcome. Well the same can be said of ‘Dear Judas’ and they carry on where they left off. On listening it seems much shorter and the punchiness is still evident and ends the album superbly.
The Howl Of The Underclasses is not all what I was expecting and I was very pleasantly surprised and they are now at the top of my list of bands to catch live. Capturing perfectly the filth, smoke and destitution of the city their was no happy ending for many in Victorian London but with a soundtrack of The Filthy Spectacula and an endless supply of Gin and Rum it would ease the pain a wee bit!