Tag Archives: New Model Army

ALBUM REVIEW: THE SILK ROAD’ ‘S/T’ (2017)

Infectious and catchy throughout the debut album from northern English celtic-folk-punkers The Silk Road has more than enough punk to keep the punks happy and plenty of folk to keep the oldies like me happy!

Here’s an album we have been waiting for here at London Celtic Punks with baited breath! Those with a good memory will remember way back last October we reviewed the four track pre-album sampler from The Silk Road and back then we were very impressed

“This kind of music lends itself more to the live experience so if they are able to capture that in the studio then by St George they will have cracked it”

and I am pleased to say they haven’t let us down either!

The Silk Road hail from Chesterfield in the north of England an area famed for it’s industry and for the militant trade unionism that goes with it. Their music reflects this. Their is no pretense or ‘virtue signalling’ here. Their beliefs were learnt at the knee of older generations who lived through times they did not want to see repeated. Formed in 2015 all the band have played music locally going back some twenty years ranging from folk to punk to ska so plenty of experience involved here. Taking some old demos that singer/songwriter Tich had recorded in his studio as a base The Silk Road began to take shape and after adding some new material The Silk Road’s debut album began it’s story.

Musically The Silk Road are cut from the same cloth as three bands who are still regularly packing them in at gigs across the country all year round. The Levellers, New Model Army and Ferocious Dog are the main bands that represent a broad mixture of scenes from folk-punk to celtic-punk to English-folk. The music while it may sound like celtic-punk to some is actually the music of the north of England. Their has always been a strong tradition of folk music among the working class and just as with celtic music it was in the early 80’s that young bands began to change, add and adapt it with hard rock and punk music. For me there is no better example of this than the first two album’s from Billy Bragg. He may be a bit of a wanker now on his farm in Devon lecturing us on how to vote and still pretending he lives in Barking but those albums are an incredible mix of politics and passion that captivated us and I still regularly play them. Armed only with a cheap electric guitar Bragg stormed the Singles charts of the day with his rough but passionate voice and a way of writing straight from the heart. His best songs were always about the mysterious interactions between men and women rather than his left-wing polemics but this was urban folk at it’s finest. Now some 20+ years later The Silk Road take their place on the same path and I’m sure they won’t be moving to Devon the first chance they get!

This self-titled album is thirteen original compositions by the band and though it’s very much a team effort it’s in no small part down to the vision and drive of lead vocalist Tich. A tattooist by trade it was his idea to use the symbol of the silk road as the bands logo. Yes it may look Celtic/Irish but the three hares with interlocking ears is actually from the far east where the silk road was the ancient trade route linking Asia to the West. The album cover itself was designed by no other than celtic-punk’s leading lady Katie ‘Kaboom’ McConnell of The Mahones.

The album begins with ‘No Revolution’ and it’s a loud start. I was expecting something a bit quieter so was pleasantly surprised. Quite a basic 80’s punk sound here which I absolutely love. The fiddle may have been worth turning up a bit but its got harmonica so that’s me happy for the next forty-eight minutes! Tich’s vocals are clear as crystal and so easy to understand, and get, that there is literally no point in putting them in the CD booklet. ‘Find A Cure’ follows the same road except with a short reggae interlude before a great punk rock Irish jig takes over. Great chorus here that will have you singing it in your head long after you’ve heard it. One of the highlights is ‘I Don’t Care’ with it’s snotty punk rock base but with the fiddle in charge and Tich’s great vocals laden over the top. It’s all been very punk rock orientated so far and just as i was settling in ‘Elizabeth Rose’ comes on and by Christ I’m in celtic-punk heaven with this Irish trad punk jig. The fiddle leads the way with the rest of the band pushed to the background and a real foot tapper that I’m sure is a live favourite and gives Tich a chance to rest his lungs. They slow it down next with ‘Scars’, the first song here that featured on that Pre-Album Sampler, and sounds to me not too far from The Levellers. Not a much of a fan of them myself but this is excellent stuff with slow acoustic guitar and fiddle and nice vocals. The welcome sound of the banjo kicks off ‘Master Race’ with what sounds like spoons! Harmonica is top dog here and I love it. A instrument I always feel suits celtic-punk but is criminally underused. ‘Still Breathing’ seems to me a bit out of place here. Hard to say why exactly but its upbeat and jaunty sound perhaps. Not to say it’s not a great song as its class fiddle led punk rock. ‘Breaking Down The Laws’ keeps the music flowing with Brian’s solid drumming. ‘Ancient Road’ leads directly into ‘Montagu’s Harrier’ and while the first three minutes are reminiscent of 80’s anarcho-punk bands like The Mob or Zounds the second half is an absolutely stunningly traditional Irish folk piece/reel dedicated to an endangered bird of prey.

The bodhran is out and it’s not long before the whole band have gate crashed the song and take it another level. These two songs are a perfect introduction to The Silk Road and showcase brilliantly whet they are capable of. We are coming towards the end of the album and it’s clear by now that the band wear their politics on their sleeves and no better than in ‘City Under Siege’. Back in October I wrote

“this kind of music is very much in vogue at the moment. Not played or favoured by fashionista’s or middle class hipsters it comes very much from that sort of old Labour background of trade unionism and old fashioned values like solidarity, compassion and the wish for a better world for all. Things sadly out of fashion at this moment in time”

and while ‘Corbyn’ and the Labour Party’s revival hasn’t completely convinced me I do see hope for my class where once I saw none. Another album high point up next with ‘Boats Come In At Midnight about modern day smuggling. Very catchy indeed and half way through the fiddle comes in giving it a real nice ending. The album ends with ‘On Ya Way’ and maybe it’s a sign of mellowing with age but I really love this song. My favourite track. Tich belts it out from his heart and harmonica and acoustic guitar steer it in a direction that reminds me of Ferocious Dog a little when they slow it down.

Overall this is a great debut from The Silk Road and will win them legions of fans from the trinity of bands I mentioned above. Infectious and catchy throughout with more than enough punk to keep the punks happy and folk to keep the oldies like me happy. Its always brilliant to welcome another celtic-punk band into the scene and even better when they have trodden their own path. Haven’t seen them yet but will be making it my mission to catch them over the summer and I really hope they play ‘On Ya Way’ when I do.

Buy The EP
Contact The Band
(full concert from last year)

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INTERVIEW WITH WOLVES FOLK-PUNK BAND UNDER A BANNER

With just over a week to go before their biggest ever London date London Celtic Punks interviews Under A Banner. Purveyors of passionate, powerful and poetic folk-rock and with a new album to plug and a headline tour we wanted to find out a bit more about them.
First things first can you give us a history of the band? The who, what, why and how? Were any of you in any other bands previously and what happened to suddenly make the leap to forming Under A Banner?
Under A Banner began as a duo around 6 years ago and other musicians were steadily gathered to fill out the sound and make the band a more viable proposition for recording and performing the music I always envisaged the band making. I am the only original member of the band now. I started the whole thing as I desperately wanted to return to performing original music live. I’d previously played in a fairly short-lived band called Approach and have also played acoustic covers in pubs; the termination of the latter course of action triggered a visceral response to what I saw as virtually non-existent local scene for original music. Although I hail from Wolverhampton, the five of us live in three different counties.
You’re from Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. Can you tell us a bit about what its like there to be in a band round there. Is there much of a music scene? What about for celtic music?
The unfortunate demise and subsequent closure of Wolverhampton’s Varsity venue hit the local live scene quite hard. We still have the Newhampton Arts Centre, The Slade Rooms and, a little further down the road, Bilston’s popular Robin 2 venue. Each of these regularly play host to both tribute/cover and original music. Without deriding the former too much, it seems that original music (in particular folk infused genres) is once again spearheading a palpable fight back against the nostalgia or copycat music market in the Midlands.

How would you describe yourselves. Folk-punk, English-folk, celtic-punk? Do you think it matters in particular. Who has been your biggest inspiration for Under A Banner?
When asked about Under A Banner’s genre we normally plump for ‘alternative folk-ish hard rock’. This is because we fit into a number of brackets and exist outside of them simultaneously. We draw our inspiration from a very far-ranging and eclectic pot of music. The single unifying genre is metal, which presumably explains the heaviness of a lot of our material, but my own personal influences include New Model Army, Tori Amos, Loreena Mckennitt, Tool, Ambrozijn and Alestorm – to name but a few. Other sources for inspiration include Opeth, Rush, Iron Maiden, Clannad, The Stranglers and Thin Lizzy. A number of these bands and artists have made significant contributions to the continuing popularity of music with a Celtic flavour.
I think it’s fair to say that you are a part of the same scene of big ‘folk-punk’ bands like New Model Army and The Levellers and more recently Ferocious Dog but do you think it’s more important to connect with their fans or get away from the folk-punk ‘ghetto’ altogether and get your music out to new people? What has been the reaction from their fans so far when you have played with them? Do they give you a fair crack of the whip or are they only interested in seeing the headliners?
We were fortunate recently to support TV Smith (formerly of punk heroes The Adverts) and a week later New Model Army. It’s often been noted by fans, reviewers and bloggers that we belong in the ‘Celtic folk/punk’ ‘club’. However, we’ve picked up as many new fans playing to rock and metal crowds. We went down well with the New Model Army crowd, in spite of an incipient chest infection which had begun to weaken my voice a couple of days before the gig. I managed to sing over and through the congestion and got the audience- quite a number of whom at least knew who we were- singing along. I have always known that followers of long standing cult bands like NMA are very devoted to their favourite bands, so, under the circumstances I think we did rather well.
Traditional folk music obviously influences Under A Banner so which individuals or bands do you think have been the important links between rock and traditional folk music in the past?
 In my opinion bands like Steeleye Span and Oysterband did wonders for the synthesis between folk and rock. Speaking personally, I prefer it when bands step out of genre boundaries so frequently that critics can’t pigeonhole them.

What themes do you write about for Under A Banner? Do any of you have backgrounds in folk music and if so does this influence your writing and performing? The folk music scene is very stuck in the mud in my opinion and not very open to change so how has the folk scene been towards Under A Banner?
When writing new songs (I pen the lyrics and chordal skeletons of our songs) we draw upon a number of themes. Not all of our songs are agit-socio-political commentary, and not all are angry. I suppose we write about the same things (life, the universe and everything) as a lot of other bands do; the trick is in being able to express these ideas and abstractions in new and original ways. We at least try. Regarding the repetition of themes on the folk or folk-rock ‘circuit’, there’s something of a tradition within these genres to rage against the system, whatever that actually means.
One thing I have been very impressed with is the connection the band has with it’s fans. Do you think its important to foster a sort of family relationship? 
It would appear that in today’s musical climate, the most successful of bands – especially those without significant financial backing of major labels or other benefactors – are those who foster an ongoing two-way conversational relationship with their fans. This is something that we are acutely aware of and happy to participate in. We make regular use of both a Facebook band page and a gig group as well as Twitter (which appears to be on the decline actually) and a mailing list. The maintenance of each of these is key keeping people abreast of the band’s plans. We have made quite a few friends this way, so it doesn’t feel too arduous.
Now Wolverhampton is a very working class town and like most of the industrial parts of England outside the south-east has suffered under both Labour and Tory governments over the last few decades. How has this changed the town. It’s still massively pro-Labour and was pro-Brexit but what is the town like. Has regeneration achieved anything for the ordinary man and woman in the street. What is their that makes you proud to be from Wolves?
As I previously touched upon, being from Wolverhampton is a mixed blessing. The city doesn’t have such an active and enthusiastic live scene for original music as other places we’ve played, although metal bands seem to have plenty of opportunities to combine forces and work with local promoters. Having said this, Wolverhampton is far from a cultural dead zone. The resurgence in the popularity of real ale and craft beer here has begun to improve the city’s nightlife experience, with several new real ale bars and micropubs springing up in and around the city centre. When these venues host open mic nights at least some small gesture is made to revive part of the live music scene. The recent regeneration projects in the heart of the city’s shopping complex are also beginning to gentrify my hometown. The expected and ubiquitous giants of commerce are still very much the major players, but while some smaller independent retailers have given up their long-held plots under the hammer of ever increasing ground rent, some have clung on and continue to flourish. Metamorphosis has to happen in cities, whatever their size; there are of course winners and losers in this process. On the whole I’m happy to be part of it all. If we, as a band, can make more of a mark with what we do then I could definitively say that Wolverhampton has played its part; it is, after all, where we draw our largest crowds outside of festivals and big support slots.

Now the question that’s caused more rows on the London Celtic Punks Facebook page than the “who hates Maggie Thatcher the most” one. What do you think of Frank Turner? Folk-punk troubadour or spoiled posh brat who hangs around with the royal family?
In answer to your Frank Turner question, from what I’ve heard he’s done quite a lot to give less wealthy musicians a platform. I do like some of his music too. I think it would be churlish to dislike someone on the grounds that they may or may not have had a ‘leg up’ in their chosen cultural or artistic field, that is, if their own brand of art is worth taking heed of. I do, however, have a problem with vapid and vacuous celebrity, especially when its derived from equally facile junk TV shows. Now there’s something to kick against!
That’s it then Under A Banner. Anything you would like to add and people you would like to thank…
 Under A Banner have just embarked on a Spring tour with folk/punk comrades Headsticks. We are also playing festivals right up to Autumn and will continue to write new material. As ever, massive thanks to all the people who’ve connected with us and travelled to see us play live. See you out there.
(have a listen to the latest album from Under A Banner ‘The Wild Places’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)
Contact Under A Banner

ALBUM REVIEW: UNDER A BANNER- ‘The Wild Places’ (2016)

Passionate, powerful and poetic Midlands folk-rock band Under A Banner release their superb third studio album.

under-a-banner-lp

Under A Banner have been on our radar for a couple of years now and apart from an appearance at a free music festival in Croydon they have as yet, as far as I know, not managed to get a gig in London town. This is something we hope to remedy soon and on the strength of this album it will be an absolute pleasure. They are one of a bunch of Midlands bands playing political folk-punk that straddles everything from the celtic-punk of Ferocious Dog to the anarcho-folk of The Silk Road. Under A Banner play an infectiously catchy brand of folk-punk caught somewhere between The Levellers at their softest and New Model Army at their punkest with a smidgeon of Ferocious Dog and youthful Billy Bragg, before he fled Barking to live in Dorset in a massive mansion and vote Lib-Dem.

under-a-banner-2

Under A Banner left to right Kat Davis- Keysboards * Jake Brooks- Guitars/ Backing Vocals * Si Hill- Bass * Adam Broadhurst- Vocals/ Guitars * Tim Wilson- Drums/ Percussion/ Backing Vocals

Based in Wolverhampton and formed only four years ago they are mostly most famous for their close relationship with their fans and their constant gigging around the country, though not London as we said! The Wild Places came out September 30, 2016 on Bad Elephant Records and has already garnered some pretty amazing reviews across the internet so hopefully they won’t mind another positive one!

The Wild Places was recorded at Park Studios in Birmingham, between March and June 2016 and was produced by Alastair Jamieson and the band themselves and a very nice job they have done as well. The album kicks off with ‘In The End’ and it’s a simple start. Just singer-songwriter Adam above an acoustic guitar and cello from guest Isaac Collier. Adam’s passion flows through the song and out through it into you. This track captures Under A Banner perfectly showing off their folky roots while title track ‘The Wild Places’ has them rocking out and is a perfect example of their rockier side. Two songs in and already their range is staggering. Catchy is a very overblown word used during album reviews and if anyone knows a better one can they please let me know it! Up next is ‘Birdsong’ and a song that slows it down again that soars with an almost Gothic feel to it that reminds me of miserable Leeds sods The Mission. There’s an epic feel not just on next song ‘Sunburst’ but throughout the album due in no small part to the excellent mastering and the aural wizardry of Jon Astley who has famously worked with Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Who among others. The albums longest track is ‘Snow Song and was The Wild Place’s first release. One of the album’s standouts mixing the acoustic and the electric together.

“What a perfect time to celebrate!

Love in a silent world creates another rush of hope;

something is coming”

It’s easy to see why they chose Snow Song as that first release seeing how it showcases everything that Under A Banner do so well. From the catchy (their we go again!) and simply effective tune to the outstanding lyrics this is them. The second release was the following song ‘Nothing’s Ever Really Gone’ and again the folk-rock shines with a briliant chorus that is a sure fire toe tapper at the very least!

The second half of the album begins with ‘About Love’ and is certainly different from the rest of the album but Adam’s voice and lyrics keep it interesting. I maybe didn’t much care for it on first listen but its grown to be one of my favourites.

“There’s nothing wrong with love songs”

Adam sings and the word that springs up here is ‘Hope’ even though it’s not mentioned once within the song! One of the things I hate most in reviewing albums is that if a band isn’t too well known you are forced to bring up better known, not necessarily better though!, bands as points of reference. For instance the band Under A banner are most likend to are New Model Army and on ‘Kill It All’ they sound most like them on this album. From the lyrics attacking consumersism and false religion to the music this is the sort of stuff NMA fans would go potty for. That is not to say of course that Under A banner are merely copying NMA or any of the bands mentioned before. They can proudly stand on their own or alongside any of the bands coming in or out of the folk-rock scene. They proclaim

“There’s more of us than their are of you”

while calling us to the barracades on ‘Legion’ and they continue the rockier momentum with ‘On Top of This Mountain’. Penultimate song ‘Already There’ sees another thing that the band revel in. A simple tune on acoustic guitar while Adam’s voice cracks with passion and the return of the stunningly beautiful cello only adds to the effect.

 “The beauty was already there”

under-a-bannerIf I had a small, tiny in fact, issue with The Wild Places it’s that they don’t quite unleash their power and go for it a little more. That is not to detract from the quality here mind you, it’s just that maybe one or two of the songs could have done with a slightly harder edge to them. It all comes to an end with ‘World of Hope’ and nowhere on else on the album does Adam sound so pissed off and angry. Looking back and wondering what happened to those chances we had to change things. Nostalgia is not only about ancient rockers at Rebellion, long given up on anything they once believed in but the times we had.

Under A Banner’s third studio album certainly hits the spot and will appeal to anyone who likes any of the bands mentioned in this review. They would be only a fiddle player away from being able to call themselves a celtic-punk band so I’m sure it will appeal to our more regular readers as well. With a blend of influences from right across the musical scene while incorporating folk and rock to wrap around Adam’s clever and intelligent lyrics they play with a passion missing from a lot of bands these days. Their is defeat and loss but always with hope and they manage it all with a sincerity that makes you believe they play these songs from the heart and soul and not out of some songbook.

(listen to The Wild Places by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

Buy The Album

FromTheBand (£10-CD £5-Download)

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EP REVIEW – THE SILK ROAD ‘Midnight’ (2016)

Pre-album four track sampler EP from northern English fiddle punk band The Silk Road.
silk-road
The Silk Road are another new band to us here in England playing folk-punk and are coming out of the same sort of scene as older bands like The Levellers and New Model Army and newer ones like Ferocious Dog. All of whom are still packing them in across the country at regular intervals. They come from Chesterfield in northern England an area famous for coal mining and the accompanying militant trade unionism that goes with it. The scene for this kind of music is very much in vogue at the moment. Not played or favoured by fashionista’s or middle class hipsters it comes very much from that sort of old Labour background of trade unionism and old fashioned values like solidarity, compassion and the wish for a better world for all. Things sadly out of fashion at this moment in time. Formed in the summer of 2015 by Tich, Andy and Shaun and going on later to recruit both Jamie and Brian. All the member’s of The Silk Road had extensive histories in local bands going back over twenty years playing a range of traditional folk, punk, ska and metal/rock. The band started from some old demos and some newer recordings that singer/songwriter Tich had recorded in his studio. Working on these as well as adding some new material together, The Silk Road began to take shape. Midnight was released last July and this EP is pretty much a taster for their forthcoming debut album. In fact the boys are in Chesterfields Foundry Studios with Paul Hopkinson at the moment with the album’s release slated for November/December this year.
silkroad

Andy Hardwick- guitars/banjo * Brian Buckberry- drums * Tich Vango- guitars/vocals * Jamie Burney- fiddle/violin * Shaun Haley- bass * Jim Fisher- Harmonica player on EP (not pictured)

silk-road-tattThe EP begins with ‘Boats Come In At Midnight’ which is about modern day smuggling. Like the band they have been most likened to, Folk The System, much of what they play can be traced back to 1980’s anarcho-punk. Very catchy indeed and half way through the fiddle comes in giving it a real nice ending. Track two is ‘Ancient Road / Montagu’s Harrier’ and introduces harmonica into the mix. A instrument I love to hear as it is much neglected in folk/celtic-punk. Over six minutes long with the first half a solid and catchy enough punk tune which is reminiscent of anarcho-punk bands like The Mob or Zounds while the second half has an absolutely stunning traditional folk piece/reel dedicated to endangered bird’s of prey. The Silk Road play English folk here. Not Irish or Scottish folk and labelled English like some bands do but this is the folk music of northern England and will surely get them onto the radar of the band who excel at playing this kind of music and are taking it to the masses, Ferocious Dog. ‘Scars That Remain’ is track three and if The Levellers are the main inspiration for The Silk Road then this is their tribute to them. I’m not a massive fan of The Levellers myself this is excellent stuff. Slow acoustic guitar and fiddle and nice vocals atop brings up to final track, ‘I Don’t Care’ which raises the bar again with some brilliantly catchy fiddle led punk.
Clocking in at just over seventeen minutes its a great EP and I cannot wait to hear more from The Silk Road. This kind of music lends itself more to the live experience so if they are able to capture that in the studio then by St George they will have cracked it.
(Crap sound and not on the EP but here they are in all their glory!)

(you can listen to Midnight by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)
Buy The EP
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ALBUM REVIEW: HEADSTICKS- ‘Feather And Flames’ (2016)

Where folk and punk collide to provide a passion infused commentary that is as raw and honest as it comes…

Headsticks F and F

Nothing particularly ‘celtic’ going on here but if you’re after some fantastic played and in-yer-face folk-punk then the second album from Headsticks is for you. That’s right Headsticks not The Headsticks and they may be familiar to readers as we gave their debut album, Muster, a glowing review back in August, 2014. Since that album they have concentrated on playing live taking the stage at some decent festivals including the anti-fascist 0161 Festival in Manchester. The band come from the once proud industrial town of Stoke. Famed for the manufacture of pottery (hence the reason the area is known as The Potteries) those days are long gone and along with coal mining and steel making all of the areas main industries have been decimated by successive governments of Labour and Tory who care little for the working classes while they chase the votes of the urban middle class.

Headsticks 3

The band describe themselves as “where folk and punk collide” and remind these ears of classic British folk-rock acts like the New Model Army or a more punky Levellers or Billy Bragg (when he was good) and more recent bands like Ferocious Dog. Formed out of the ashes of two much loved, and long gone, celtic-punk bands ‘Tower Struck Down’ who were one of first English celtic-punk bands back in 1985 and Jugopunch. Gone are the celtic touches from those bands but what remains is the urgency and honesty and just plain good old folk’n’roll that made them popular first time round.
Headsticks1Feather And Flame kicks off, literally, with ‘What Do You Want?’ which bemoans the fact that the working classes have been conned into only aspiring to own the latest mobile phone or big screen TV rather than any control of their own lives. With a world to win its football that takes priority but why not.
“I’ve got tickets for the weekends match, for the boys in red and white,
It’s the third round of the cup you know, if I missed it well, it wouldn’t seem right,
We can meet up in the town tonight, and we can drink this world to rights,
We can raise a glass to liberty, and to the glory of the fight?”
We all need something to lift us from the gloom occasionaly! Quick, punchy and punky a great start and only enhances those folk-punk credentials. ‘Cold Grey English Skies’ tells of the desolation and depression of growing up (and old) in an post-industrial English town. The reality of the world far away and out of sight and out of mind of the cosmopolitan middle classes. ‘Go Move Shift’ is the Headsticks take on the famous Ewan MacColl penned song ‘The Moving On Song’ and it’s a version Ewan would most definitely have approved of. They extend the song, originally about travellers, to be about the police shooting of a homeless man sleeping rough in Los Angeles. The boys show their heritage, and a sly sense of humour, next in ‘Old Folk Songs’.
Never sounding more new wave than here the music harks back to an earlier age while the politics also hark back to a time when people were more united and willing to stand up and work together. I love a bit of harmonica and ‘Foxford Town’ supplies it. As with the whole album its catchy and Andrew’s vocals are to the fore standing out clear and strong. In recent years the city of Stoke has been blighted with the rise of the far-right. Betrayed by those they voted into power for the last God knows how long and a left that considers them ‘white trash’ the working class turned to groups like the fascist BNP in their droves. ‘Mississippi’s Burning’ tells this story eloquently
“There’s rumours in the pubs and bars, whispers on the streets,
The crooked cross is on the roll, hear the sound of marching feet,
Strange fruit growing on the trees, like in Billy Holiday’s song,
The years pass by, more old men die, those who stood and fought so strong…

The rise seems to have been checked but not won. The ‘victory’ was based on ‘if you vote BNP you are scum’ no way to win the working class over to the left so the people of Stoke simply retreated to apathy. I feel for Stoke as it reminds me of my home town. Another once proud industrial town with a strong left-wing ethos virtually destroyed by a corrupt (and criminal) Labour council. I don’t know why but the more harmonica led songs like ‘Pay The Price’ seem also to remind me a bit of The Housemartins.

“Like the fiercest fire burning through the night…
Everybody has their price to pay,it’s killing me to walk away…”

Another catchy as hell track with superb lyrics. Andrew, the vocalist, wrote all the songs and is one of those writers I’d describe as a story-songwriter.

The songs here are beautifully written and given the subject matter most of the time they are never sloganeering or badgering but just pure passion and compassion for other people. The plight of the common man is never far away her and ‘Tomorrow’s History’ tells of

“See the man who’s toil has built this land, a land they call great,
Reduced to bitter hatred, served their bile upon his plate”

but then hits us with

“Today we’ll write tomorrow’s history, so tomorrow we can live
So tomorrow we can live”

reminding us that our destiny is in our own hands we must only grasp it. ‘Every Single Day’ is about the media and the propaganda that spills out that if its not telling us that immigrants or travellers are responsible for the ills of society then its promoting the dumbest and most stupid to levels of fame unknown in the past. Politicians and the media don’t just lie to us they try to convince us we are worth nothing and our history and the hard (sometimes we won!) battles of the past were for nothing. Headsticks are here to remind us to take pride in those battles and to look forward to next one. ‘Burn The Sun’ gets all funky guitar while it puts the boot into The Sun newspaper. Read almost exclusively by the working classes while being written almost exclusively by middle class ex-public school children it has long left much of the authentic left amazed at its popularity amongst those it regularly abuses and victimises. Football, bingo, telly and tits have served it well and one of the benefits of the decline in printed media is that less and less people read this shitty paper all the time. The song ends with

“Where’s the justice for the ninety six?
Justice for the ninety six”

which refers to the lies pumped out by the Sun after the tragedy of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 where 96 Liverpool supporters went to a football match and thanks to the ineptitude and criminal failings of the police never made it home. The album ends with the ballad ‘Falling Out Of Love Song’ and Headsticks save the best till last. The longest song here and it gives them plenty of time to vent their spleen at the political correctness that the m/c have somehow managed to inject into the left. Where once the left were able to call a spade a spade now we cannot even question important issues as even the idea of bringing them up can see people labelled as racist or right wing.

Headsticks 2

Forty minutes of passionate punked up roots rock with a sense of history most bands could only dream of. Its not always fun to listen to what they are saying as Headsticks are a band forged by their environment. The England they once knew and loved is changing and sadly not in a good way. Their music is a rallying call to stop the erosion of our rights and our humanity and as heartfelt as it is it is also compelling. Headsticks are Andrew on vocals and that harmonica, Stephen on guitar, Nick on bass and Tom on drums.

you can read our review of Headsticks debut album Muster here

Contact The Band
Buy The Album
Tower Struck Down WebSite here

EP REVIEW: UNDER A BANNER- ‘Victory Time’ (2015)

Under A Banner are a folk-punk band that are passionate, powerful, poetic and rock hard!

Under A Banner- Victory Time EP

We planned to review Under A Banner as soon as we came across them early last year but unfortunately it went in the ‘To Do’ pile and just stayed there and got no further. Thankfully this prolific band had another record release just around the corner and it has given us the chance to put things right. Just recently we seem to have been inundated with folk-punk bands. From the solo acoustic of Bryan McPherson to the punky Mischief Brew to the beautiful Jack Of All it seems that ths is the folk-punk moment in time! As with the before mentioned bands there’s not possibly a great deal if all you’re interested in is solely celtic music but London Celtic Punks blog is not just about celtic-punk and if we like something we cannot wait to share it with you. Which brings us back to Under A Banner.

Under A Banner Left to right : Kat Davis - keyboards. Tim Wilson - Drums and backing vox. Adam Broadhurst - lead vox and guitars . Jake Brooks - guitars and backing vox. Si Hill - bass

Under A Banner  Left to right : Kat Davis – keyboards. Tim Wilson – Drums and backing vox. Adam Broadhurst – lead vox and guitars . Jake Brooks – guitars and backing vox. Si Hill – bass

Based in Wolverhampton in the Midlands Under A Banner play an infectious and catchy brand of folk-punk caught somewhere between The Levellers at their softest, New Model Army at their punkest and a smidgeon of Ferocious Dog and a wee bit of the youthful Billy Bragg before he fled to Dorset and started voting Lib-Dem. The tunes are quintessentially English with both the folk and the punk influences. They gig relentlessly and its easy to tell that they have honed their skill as a live band with this perfect release.

to download for free click on the album sleeve

Under A Banner have done the near impossible for any band and have managed to transfer that great live sound onto record. They have even released a free five track live album so you can sample them doing what they do best for yourselves. I don’t know exactly why it is but it always seems hard to genuinely capture celtic (or folk) -punk bands energy on record. One of the problems I suppose is that we are a genre that is best experienced live in concert with good friends, a lively appreciative crowd and with one or two (or more!) drinks with you. Anyhow download it by clicking on the record sleeve and you will see for yourself what I mean. Needless to say you will end up hooked like I did.

With one release at least every year since they formed Under A Banner have kept up an incredibly high standard of songwriting and they have surpassed themselves again with ‘Victory Time’. From the opening bars of ‘The Network’ the EP punches you in the gut and leaves you reeling. Kicking off with the sound of an accordion and some fast paced drumming and Adams vocals driving the tune along and a song about how things like facebook and television leaves us all isolated from each other.

“this network wastes my bloody time”

The second track is title song ‘Victory Time’ and is as good a drinking song you will hear. Its a real pint in the air moment with a raucous catchy tune and real singalonga chorus. The title refers I think to when you get a lock-in in the pub. It certainly feels like a victory to me when it happens anyway!

‘Leaving Here’ doesn’t slow things down and with the organ pushing things along the New Model Armyish tune will have you feeling the need to leap about in your living room. Next up is firm fan favourite ‘Summer Skies’  and it is the only song that on the EP that isn’t brand spanking new and is a re-working of the track that first appeared on their 2012 LP ‘The Ragged Rhythm Of Rain’.

The EP ends with ‘Magic Is Real’ and Under A Banner pull out all the stops with a multitude of instruments on the go and although it never gets going in the same way as the EP’s other songs its a real grower. At just under twenty minutes you definitely get your hard earned worth and the EP is available for Download or on an actual CD from the band themselves below.

Of course by far the best way to experience Under A Banner is to see them live and if you live in or near London you will have the perfect opportunity coming up soon at the Ambition Festival in Croydon. The band are playing this free festival on Saturday 25th July headlining on the ‘Queens Garden- No Rubbish Stage’. So stock up on beer and sun-cream and join us at the front of the stage at 7pm. The following day, on the Sunday, London-Irish psycho-ceilidh celtic-punkers Neck are also playing the festival so looks like being a full on South London weekender! The full festival line-up, maps and any other details you will need can be found here. This looks a really good event and, for what we like, its completely free too so we all doff our scally caps to the organisers. So have a listen and then check out Under A Banner and come see them live you will have no better excuse I tells you!

(you can listen to the whole EP by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

Contact The Band

WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter  Bandcamp  Soundcloud

Buy The EP

FromTheBand

EP REVIEW: JACK OF ALL- ‘Bindle Punk’ (2015)

pirate songs and punk polemics!

Jack Of All- Bindle Punk

Another great new band from England has arrived on the London Celtic Punks doorstep with their cracking debut EP ‘Bindle Punk’. Formed only in April last year Jack Of All began gigging locally but soon they spread their wings out to Yorkshire across the Midlands and even ‘dahn’ here in London. Good things lie ahead of Jack Of All and don’t be a fool and miss out. They have a long list of gigs coming up (here) but they are playing London at The Gunners, 204 Blackstock Road, North London N5 1EN, nearest tube Finsbury Park, on Saturday 4th July so get along and catch them in the flesh. They take the stage at approx. 8pm and its an all day event and completely free for a ton of bands. Keep an eye on the FB Event page here.

Jack Of All

Anna Clifton (violin) and Laurence Aldridge (guitar/vocals)

The Jack Of All sound is of classic English folk but with a few punky chunks added. You can make out obvious influences coming from bands as diverse as Ferocious Dog, New Model Army, Billy Bragg and The Levellers but Jack Of All follow no-one. The first thing that strikes you on listening to the EP is Laurence’s vocals and and how good they actually are. You can forget sometimes that in a genre where Shane MacGowan is king it is actually possible to still sing ‘properly’ and also fit in. Added to this is Anna’s superb fiddle playing and the concoction is pretty sweet. Nothing too manic here and its possibly stretching things by calling it punk but the spirit is there and the spirit is willing. They play mostly original material and I’m sure they would make a fortune if they decided to go the ‘pub route’ but with Laurence being a professional actor and Anna an ethical jeweller they can happily steer clear of that route and go their own way. Thank God I say! The EP’s name was I thought a odd one so I looked it up and came up with

‘a hobo or derelict hired to do rough or unpleasant work’

which seems to fit Jack Of All pretty nicely. I mean even though there’s no Tom Waits style growling its still very much the music of outlaws and vagabonds. They have some pretty amazing lyrics too and by the sound of them they fit in ever so nicely with ourselves, with a sample from Paul Kenny, head of the GMB Union talking to Mark Thomas, the icing on the cake!

The EP starts off with ‘Definitions’ and a bit of celtic sounding fiddle and the tempo is up and Jack Of All are off. From the very start Jack Of All let you know where they stand. Even though they are usually a 2-piece band the added drums on this EP give them a extra bit of bite. ‘Home’ follows and begins acapella style

“if home is where the heart is why is my heart not home”

before it becomes a folky-celticy-rockabilly number and as catchy a chorus as I heard in a long time. A guaranteed foot tapper. ‘Thank You For Your Application’ is the EP’s slowest track but stills keeps up that God-damn catchiness! With ‘Home’ and now this one my foot is going like the bloody clappers! Beginning slow the song builds to a crescendo and what I originally thought was an electric guitar, but turns out to be Anna’s electric violin through a distortion pedal, coming in is a great move. Simply brilliant. ‘On Top Of The Hills’ continues and is still more of the same but how are they keeping up the quality. Absolutely impossible to pick a stand out track as the whole EP is fantastic. If we did marks out of ten it would be 10/10 all round. The final track is ‘All About The Money’ and it reminded me a bit of 50’s style crooning Germans The Baseballs but was a great way to end the EP. Capitalism is a disease and Jack Of All know the cure… They funded the EP themselves through the Pledge music web-site and of each sale 10% goes to charity through Parkinson’s UK, which is the charity which helped the late father of Laurence while he suffered from a life-threatening illness. So there you have a great EP and a chance to help others too so don’t delay! Over twenty minutes and every song is a strong self-penned number well worth your measly few quid. When you do reviews one of the words you find yourself using the most (if you’re lucky) is ‘catchy’. I’m sick of the fecking word but sometimes it explains everything. This EP has it all catchy songs, expertly played fiddle and great vocals and lyrics and all without being over produced. I reckon this EP has captured Jack Of All’s live sound so be sure to catch them somewhere soon. Can’t recommend this enough.

(listen to the whole EP by pressing play on the Soundcloud player below)

 
Get The EP
Contact The Band

ALBUM REVIEW: HEADSTICKS- ‘Muster’ (2014)

“shoulders back boys

hold your heads up high…

don’t ever let them bastards see you cry”

Headsticks- 'Muster' 2014
Headsticks are a relatively new band to me coming from Stoke-On-Trent in the northern Midlands of England. The area is named The Potteries after its main industry of pottery. Sadly those days are long gone and along with coal mining and steel making all of the areas main industries have been decimated. Headsticks prove though that in an area where fascists until recently made up the official opposition in the local council that their is hope for the left, and by that I mean the real left not the trendy middle classes who helped destroy Stoke and its communities.
The band describe themselves as inhabiting the place
“where folk and punk collide”
and is very reminiscent of classic British folk-rock acts like the New Model Army, Billy Bragg (when he was good) and Blyth Power. Formed out of the ashes of two much loved celtic-punk bands ‘Tower Struck Down’ from Crewe in Cheshire who were one of the original scene bands formed way back in 1985 and the band that came out of them Jugopunch who featured on the Shite’n’Onions 2nd Volume Compilation CD.
Headsticks
Headsticks have been kicking up a bit of a fuss around their home and now further afield as well with the release of this their debut album. Last year they released a 3-track demo which was pretty well received but the reception to ‘Muster’ has been universally impressive.

Twelve tracks and an impressive 45 minutes long ‘Muster’ pulls you in from the first seconds of brilliant opening track ‘Flatline Town’ telling the well known story of what happens to places when you systematically set out to destroy them by closing down the industries that those places were built on. Its worth remembering though its not the towns but the people in them the rulers of this land wanted to destroy and ‘Muster’ is testament to the resistance to that. Despite only having acoustic guitar and harmonica as ‘folk’ instruments the album has a traditional british folk sound to it but despite not being celtic at all I’m absolutely 100% sure it would appeal to all fans of celtic-punk. ‘Youre Killing Me America’ is an anti-imperialist anthem that is particularly apt at the moment while the USA funds the Israeli’s attempted genocide of the Palestinians. ‘Cold’ takes Headsticks over to Mullingar and is me fave album track about love gone wrong. A slight C’n’W feel due to the great guitar playing. ‘Two Sides’ slows it right down and the harmonica (which regular readers will know I love!) is to the fore and again in the next song ‘Wishing’ which to these ears reminded me of The Housemartins. They speed it up again with ‘Fanatics’ and the social commentary is flowing and we’re glad to see these boys plant themselves firmly on the left. ‘Ghost’ sees the Headsticks heading back to Ireland to Achill Island. ‘World Away’ and ‘Teenage Widow’ continue the theme of trying to find out what happened to the working class of the northern cities and ‘Every Dog Will Have Its Day’ shows the gritty dark humour of the band
“You’re standing outside Wilkinson’s
Strumming on your guitar
To buy a liquid lunch and another pack of ten”
‘Paper Flowers’ tells of young men being sent away to kill and be killed in wars that we shouldn’t be involved in. ‘I Love The Way’ ends the disc with another great anthem and fist in the air chorus.

A great album and recommended for all here. Despite only being formed in 2012 I can see these boys shortly becoming firm favourites on the festival scene. Their music will appeal to all from the teeny punk bopper to the grizzled old folkie and with sound politics and even sounder ethics this is a band we can all put our trust in.
Contact The Band
Tower Struck Down WebSite
Buy The Album
there’s a nice review of the album here on Louder Than War

 

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