‘FULL FORCE FOLK’
from a Bunch Of Bastards from The Hague, Rotterdam and Dordrecht!
I’m not sure quite what it is about the word Bastard in celtic-punk but their are a whole host of bloody brilliant bands about with it in their name. Think Mr Irish Bastard from Germany, Bastards On Parade (now shortened to just Bastards) from Galicia, Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards from Italy, Middle Class Bastards from Russia and Bastard Bearded Irishman from Pittsburgh in the United States. It’s just a shame we don’t have a decent band here in the UK to add! Well to this bunch of Bastards we can now add another Bunch Of Bastards from the Netherlands.
Coming together in mid-2013 the main inspiration for the band was accordionist Andries (better known in the celtic punk scene as Mr Dutch Irish Bastard) who has graced the stage with many of the top European celtic punk bands like Circle J, Mr.Irish Bastard (and even The Mahones) and recorded with the likes of Bastards On Parade, Sir Reg, Greenland Whalefishers and Firkin. Fed up of being a guest he decided it was time to form his own band and vision and this is what he did, over what seemed like a loooong time to those of us watching on Facebook!
(Listen to one of the tracks from the album here but it was recorded at their 5th gig sometime ago so they have moved on and got much tighter as a band since then. Just to give you an idea!)
And so the trials and tribulations sorted The Bunch Of Bastards began to play live and picked up some nice support slots along the way before they released My Drinkin’ Ain’ Done their debut long player to an eager and awaiting public. Now Holland has some amazing bands like Circle J and LQR both of whom we have featured recently and the Dutch celtic-punk scene is famous for not solely sticking to celtic music allowing other genres and influences to seep in. Bunch Of Bastards keep it mainly celtic and punk though and is no poorer for it.
We get fourteen songs lasting exactly fifty minutes and like all the aforementioned bands its all brilliant stuff alright. From the first bars of opening song ‘Lucky Break’ the mandolin kicks it all off before the whole band join in and its great joyous sounding music even though the story is about one of life’s losers. ‘Back In The Day’ follows and ‘Middle of Nowhere’ and the pattern is forming. The music is fast and definitley on the folky side without being any less punk. Shouty vocals that fit in perfectly with gang choruses (that I especially loved) and the production is amazing. All the instruments are clear as crystal with Cor’s vocals over the top they have got everything just right here. We all here in England never cease to be amazed how well the Dutch speak English and here they sing in it as well as one or two English bands I could mention! The lyrics are all pretty damn cool as well. Mostly dealing with the downside of life but the music is never less than uplifting even if the tales sometimes aren’t! The first signs of that famous Dutch style is, unsurprisingly, next on ‘Katuska Kalashnikova’ where Andries lets his accordion do the talking and some great Russian/eastern European music seeps in. ‘Hey Barkeeper’. next and from the off its as catchy as hell, accordion and vocal led. The mix is great with the balance just right and fitting the Bunch Of Bastards sound perfectly. This is followed by ‘Sky Over Rotterdam’ which tells the moving and emotional story of the bombardment of Rotterdam by German planes during World War 2. Desperate to destroy the city and its manufacturing base hundreds of people per week starved to death or were killed in the bombing.
“The sky over Rotterdam is so peaceful now
But my old man, he still remembers how
That war made that sky such a restless place
And airplanes were never hard to trace
First them planes brought war, then they raised hopes high
And in the end, they dropped food from the sky
The sky, the sky, the sky, over Rotterdam”
The song celebrates the ending of the blockade and the allied food drops into the city that saved countless lives. The song is Andries Dad’s war time memories as a kid in Rotterdam. He wrote them down and Andries made them into first a booklet and later into this song so when I said it was moving and emotional you can bet it is. ‘Sing With Us Bastards’ sounds like a celtic-punk Toy Dolls and the humour is self evident. Not much of a story to this one but
“we are part time punks but full time folkies”
its a happy pint in the air moment before ‘Michael Malloy’ tells the true story of a homeless Irish man in New York who is famous for surviving a number of murder attempts on his life by five friends, who were attempting to commit life insurance fraud. Iron Mike (or Durable Mike) was originally from Donegal and was a fire fighter till he fell on hard times. After several attempts he was finally finished off but his murderers were caught and all bar one went to the electric chair.
“not easy to kill Michael Malloy, this tough Irish bloke was hard to destroy”
‘Run’n’Drink’ is another ode to the pint and the Bunch punk it up for this but you still get plenty of accordion for your ear holes. Not remembered much these days but Holland was very much a colonial power back in the day and like most of the European countries that dabbled in imperialism they have lots to be ashamed of. Don’t get me wrong though pretty much every country in the world has something that they are embarrassed to teach in schools. ‘The Dutch’ tells of their role in slavery in times past and smuggling in modern times. AS usual the Ruling Classes have a lot to answer for. They slow it right down for ‘Live Again’ and a beautiful song about a loved one slipping away. ‘Let’s Call It A Day’ again has a strong and positive message like a lot of the lyrics on My Drinkin’ Ain’t Done. We have all got pissed, nicked, left, beaten up etc., haven’t we but the pain soon goes and what better advice than
“head’s up tomorrow and you will be okay”
Catchy is not the word for ‘Many a Good Reason’ as again the Bunch give us a brilliant drinking song. The Dutch know plenty about the pleasures of alcohol and its celebrated here in song and ‘Many a Good Reason’ is as good as they get. Definitly one of the album highlights!
So fourteen songs and fifty minutes worth of quality celtic-punk comes to an end with the only cover and it’s a good one in both choice and execution. Traced back to the 17th century and made most famous by The Dubliners and later Thin Lizzy ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ is a classic Irish folk song and well deserving of its place too. Bunch Of Bastards give it plenty of oompf and bring the curtain down on the album very nicely indeed.
Well what to say except we are not even half way through 2016 and already we have a tonne of fantastic album’s challenging for that coveted Album Of The Year award. Here is fifty minutes of some of the best celtic-punk you are going to hear this year I promise you. Now for the good (and bad) news. Bunch Of Bastards are heading over to England in early May but the bad news is they are sadly not coming to London. You can still catch them playing three gigs around Hampshire and Shropshire. They play 5th May at The Vaults in Bishops Castle, 6th May at Percys in Whitchurch and 7th May at The Bear in Bridgnorth. The support for all gigs will be Paul Henshaw and friends so if you fancy a few days away in a lovely part of the country then there’s your chance. I just might join you!
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(great and very interesting interview with Andries and Peter from the band here)