Tag Archives: Grinning Barretts

EP REVIEW: THE GRINNING BARRETTS- ‘The Riot EP’ (2018)

 The second EP release in less than six months from the beer and whisky fuelled bagpipe Celtic punk rockers The Grinning Barretts. Delivering more of the same with a range of floor stompin’, table poundin’ trad Irish folk originals, to catchy, ‘waketheFup’ Irish punk anthems that will sure blow the cobwebs out your ears!

Though formed in 2015 this year has been a very busy one for Vancouver Island Celt-Punk upstarts The Grinning Barretts with the release of The Riot EP quickly following their debut EP from last St. Patrick’s Day. To say we rated it highly is a bit of an understatement and we are also pleased to report that The Riot hits the high spots too.
Grinning Barretts

The Grinning Barrett’s left to right: Bern- Bass * Aaron- Bagpipes, Whistles, Vocals * Dylan-Guitar, Banjo, Vocals * Jeremy- Drums * Lydia- Riot Brewing bartender * Jimmy- badass fan * Pat- Guitar, Mandolin, Lead Vocals. Not in the pic: Kevin- Bagpipes

Hailing from the small ex-mining town of Ladysmith in British Columbia, Canada that debut release saw seven song, including two covers, of pounding anthemic Irish influenced punk rock. Simply played but with a passion missing from many a signed band The Grinning Barretts have a pride in their ancestry as well as their class which shone through in songs like ‘UFS’ (-Union Fight Song) and covers like ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’. Rather than repeat ourselves head over to our review of The St. Padraigs EP here and find out a bit more about the rich (not in money!) history of where The Grinning Barretts ancestors washed up and the individuals involved in the group.

The Riot EP was released last week and is another step in the right direction for this class band. Kicking off with ‘Armstrong Ave’ and with two pipers they waste no time in getting them involved in a Real McKenzies-ish, who even get a mention,  fast paced punk rocker.

“I hear evolution, Fire get’s passed along,  I hear the tried and true.

Who still soldier on Good Riddance, McKenzies, Strung Out, NoFX. I listen to Rancid.

I will until I’m deaf”

Punk lives on and each band carries the torch and whose to say there’s not a group of young guns out there listening to The Grinning Barrett’s who will take the torch from them… but not just yet. ‘At The Altar Of Saint Ayn’ is more Irish with vocalist Pat Barrett’s mandolin getting a good work out. The music is fast and punky with the occasional break for some trad folk and it’s all done with a style you wouldn’t often associate with a straight forward punk band. The song is interspersed throughout with chat from England’s own Christopher Hitchens. Look him up if you like and make your own minds up on what he says is all I will say. The song is about the Russian-American philosopher Ayn Rand.

“The apostles of St Ayn. Blue blooded time and time again profess the virtues of toil and sacrifice. From offices so high. Bestowed as a birthright and baptized on the altar of St Ayn”

Next up is ‘Last Call’ and is that most dreaded words for any Celtic-Punk fan. We may hate it but what about the poor bar staff trying to shoe horn us out the bleeding door! This song is for them. We have our first and only cover next up with the old and beloved ‘The Rising Of The Moon’. Picked up and sung on occasion by Celtic-Punk bands but by no means common i can only remember it played by US band The Kilmaine Saints and Ukrainians ShamRocks it’s played to the max here and coming in at under two minutes its fast and most unlike any version you ever heard before. Pat’s voice is harsh and gruff and adds plenty punk rock bite to the rest of the proceedings. Aaron and Kevin’s pipes are out again in force and it takes us nicely into ‘IBLD’ a straight up punk number with a nice guitar break from Dylan. No Celticness to admire here just a catchy as hell punk rock number. We are nearing the end and again The Grinning Barrett’s mine (!) their local history for its rich source of material and ‘King Of Scabs’ is without doubt the #1 song on The Riot EP for me. Beginning with the pipes and one hell of a catchy tune and Pat reins in his voice a little and even sings along at times. Its a cracker of a song and for those that don’t know a Scab is the word used to describe a ‘person’ who betrays his brothers and sisters and crosses a picket line. Take some advice from The Grinning Barrett’s and London Celtic Punks- Don’t ever cross a picket line. The song tells the story of miners strike and is important enough I’ll reprint it all here.

“Across a picket line a man with no loyalty walked. Into the mines because his honor had been bought and over bodies he would step to line his bank account. While other men’s families learned to go without.

1887 at Nanaimo #1 an explosion killed 148 Men. Condemned to die by conditions in the mines trying to put food on their plates. On broken strikes and broken backs the King built his castle and he paid a pittance for the lives lost deep down below. The men got locked out of the mines for talk of a better wage.

Roberts greed and Roberts pride would see them all as spaces. He hired thugs and police to harass picket lines until men accepted starvation wages in collapsing mines

(Chorus) Halfway to hell at the morning bell into the mines for coal. While the king of scabs clawed wages back from high in his castle”

The King of scabs in the song is Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant to Vancouver island. He was a union coal miner, but crossed a picket line to scab his fellow workers becoming a wealthy coal baron as a result. He exploited Chinese workers willing to work for less to drive down wages, and was active in keeping safety laws lax. He built Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria that is still there today. The Riot EP ends, appropriately, with ‘Riot Crew’ and its all over in sixty-five seconds of fast Oi!/Streetpunk and we can finally catch our breath. The EP was recorded at the Riot Brewing Co. in Chemainus British Columbia and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea it sure is mine! Fast and agressive Celtic-Punk with the emphasis on PUNK that is played with passion and pride. A great EP and now all they need to do is knock out a Long Player otherwise they going to dominate the Best Of Year EP charts for 2018!

(listen to The Riot EP for free before you buy here on Bandcamp)

Buy The Riot EP

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EP REVIEW: THE GRINNING BARRETTS- ‘The St. Padraig’s’ (2018)

 Beer and Whisky fuelled bagpipe Celtic punk rock from Vancouver Island 5 piece The Grinning Barretts who deliver a range of originals from floor stompin’, table poundin’ trad Irish folk, to catchy, ‘waketheFup’ Irish punk anthems!

The Grinning Barretts hail from the town of Ladysmith on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The area was renowned for coal mining in the early decades of the twentieth century. As would seem to be the way with industrial workers it is coal-miners who have been traditionally the most militant and the area was famed for it’s militancy with many strikes and unrest as the areas miners battled the mine owners in an area at the time thought to be the most dangerous in the entire world. As around the world the bosses realised it is cheaper to import coal dug by children and modern day slaves and so the mines eventually closed but the ides that were forged miles underground by those miners still live on in the closely knit town where Pamela Anderson was born! The band formed in 2015 and after going through several line up changes have finally settled upon a steady line up. The St. Padraigs EP saw the light of day on St. Patrick’s Day just passed and the Bhoys already have a follow up release planned any day soon and a third release for later in the year. Out of the ashes of local ska bands The Kiltlifters and Street Prophets Union, Scot and Pat decided after a decade away from playing live music that the time was ripe and the area was in need of a kick-arse Celtic-Punk band so after roping in recruits from the local Pacific Gael Pipes and Drums corp. as well as from the local rock scene The Grinning Barretts hit the stages around Ladysmith and the rest is history!

The Grinning Barrettts left to right: Jeremy Fiddy- Drums * Bern Kinnear- Bass * Aaron Bergen- Bagpipes/Whistles * Dylan Wickham- Guitar/Banjo/Vocals * Pat Westmacott- Guitar/Mandolin/Vocals * Kevin Dougan- Bagpipes/Whistles

The EP begins with the pounding blue-collar working class anthem ‘Plutocrass’ and it’s hard and fast bagpipe punk from the get go. The sound is in the same vein as Yank bands Templars Of Doom and Alternative Ulster. Yer basic standard catchy as hell punk rock played with superb bagpipes as an integral part of the music rather than just tacked on as an afterthought. The band call it “A shot at the rich bastards who own news outlets, and pay them to lie so they can get richer.”  

“Billionaires paying millionaires to tell the middle class to blame the poor
To keep them from our guillotines, torches and pitchforks
Billionaires paying millionaires to lie right thru their teeth
Filling empty heads with ignorance to justify their greed”

I likes it a lot! ‘W&B’ carries on in the same vein with a story of friendship but told in The Grinning Barretts own indeterminable way

“When the pot is getting hotter or you’re only treading water
I’ll be a life boat and ferry you home
Fuck your fair-weather friends I’ll be there till the end
Drinking whisky and pissing on their bones”

It’s great stuff and again catchy as hell and with a real foot slappin’ beat to it. There are no namby-pamby lyrics or feelings here just words as normal working folk would speak them. This is NOT a safe space!! Pat’s growl fits the bill and the chugging guitar accompanies the pipes perfectly here. Next is ‘Kudatah’ and there’s the slightest ever tinge of a ska beat going on. Obviously these guys can’t leave it all behind. It works as well as it so often does in Celtic-Punk.

The only Celtic instrument on display are the pipes but these Grinning Barretts are definitely an Celtic-Punk band. The use of the pipes is so entwined with the music how could they be anything else. Check out their full concert video at the end of the review for further proof. Another great example is their first cover with ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme’ as it’s never been played before. Something about this traditional Scots folk ballad just lends itself to Celtic-Punk and quite a few bands have covered it but The Grinning Barretts give it the full on punk rock treatment. They follow this up with a visit to Ireland and another, perhaps overdone, Celtic-punk standard with ‘Black Velvet Band’. The Bhoys adapt it to their own home and give it plenty of oompf and you may suspect a ballad is coming till the cobwebs are well and truly blown away and the song almost veers into metal but its the unmistakable tune of the original that shines through. We coming up to the final bend and its time for my favourite song and its an anthem dedicated to workers everywhere. A union song that would give The Dropkick Murphys a run for their money! ‘UFS’ is not just a union song though its a Join Your Union song. I come from a long line of militant trade unionists myself so love the sentiments here. If only we as workers understood our power is when we are together and that being in a union is a necessity these days. When you buy home insurance you don’t think your house is going to burn down and the same with joining the union you may think the bosses will always treat you fairly but history says your wrong. Do as The Grinning Beggars say and join a trade union today. Beers and cheers go from the band to Brooks Jamison for the superb guitar solo who delivered the goods in only three takes and asked only for beers for the pleasure. Finally The St Padraig’s EP ends with ‘To Your Name’. It’s the longest song here due mainly in part to Aaron Bergen’s fantastic bagpipe solo at the end of a classy punk rock number about always remembering you lost friends and comrades. 

“To your name, we raise a glass
To the miles that we walked together”

As I stated these are words from the heart and from the street not the coddled university’s where the pampered offspring of the middle classes turn their fury away from the real enemies and onto the working class who have never profited from anything but have always lost everything.

All together we have seven songs with five originals and some novel takes on a couple of standards that you will never have heard played like that! Not a band for the faint hearted folkie but if you love your Celtic-Punk played with passion and pride in their class and their music then this EP is for you. The Grinning Barretts will drink your beer, and you will like it.

(listen to the whole of The St. Padraigs EP below on the Bandcamp link)

Buy The St. Padraig’s

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(full concert from last year at Logans in Victoria B.C. and as they say “Apologies for poor sound and dark lightning but it is a punk bar”)

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