Tag Archives: Rancid

ALBUM REVIEW: SMZB- ‘The Chinese are Coming’ (2016)

The new album celebrating the twentieth anniversary of SMZB.

One of the scene’s best bands and the only celtic-punk band in China!

smzb

smzb-logo

yes.. look again!

Celtic-punk in 2016 is truly a global music genre. Gone are the days when it was the preserve of spotty second, third or fourth generation Irish kids and welcome now to the World Of Celtic-Punk! SMZB hail from Wuhan in mainland China and were one of the first original Chinese punk bands forming in 1996. The name SMZB means Sheng Ming Zhi Bing and in English is literally, ‘Bread of Life’. Unsurprisingly when you hear their music the Chinese authorities have never taken kindly to them and so three of their albums have been banned at home. Sometime around the mid-noughties they made the decision to move away from their original raw sound of early British punk, ska and ’80s hardcore and add bagpipes, flutes and fiddles to their sound. Sounding like a combination of The Pogues, the Murphy’s and Rancid they have deservedly become absolutely huge in their native country and their fame is growing outside China too. They have toured Europe a few times, including earlier this year though sadly never visiting these shores, as well as recording several acclaimed albums including a split with Norwegian celtic-punk legends Greenland Whalefishers.

smzb-band

The Chinese Are Coming was released on Maybe Mars Records on September 30 this year and begins with the drone of bagpipes through the ‘Intro’ with pounding drums joining in and soon enough the album explodes in your earholes with some quality celtic-punk. SMZB may have been the first and still are arguably the best Chinese punk band but the video to the album’s real opener ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Rebel’ shows they are not alone and features several other local punk bands and is a tribute to Lei Jun China’s first skinhead and Beijing’s punk godfather, who passed away a year previous to this video being premiered this year on the 6th of May.

Reading through the lyrics and knowing the conditions they live in you can only marvel at how brave the band are for singing what they do. It certainly shows up some of the ‘revolutionary’ bands in the west who seem more concerned with getting on the bill at Rebellion festival and getting a huge payday.

“You cannot change anyone in the world,
The only one you can change is yourself.
When you find out the truth and their lies,
That’s when you should do something”

The band to be referenced most here is of course The Dropkick Murphys and SMZB have nailed their sound perfectly. It is all bagpipes and catchy as hell punk rock. Up next is ‘The Chinese Are Coming’ which was the first single off the album and begins with a Ramones-ish

“Hey, Ho! Where shall we go?”

and while on the accompanying video the lyrics are sung in English on the album its in their native language but the words show SMZB’s great sense of humour as well as adding in a great bit of Irish folk thanks to some expert tin whistle playing.

‘Born In The PRC’ is not a celtic-punk version of The Bosses song but an angry and vitriolic response to the nationalism of their government and what punk means to those who face real oppression on a daily basis not like the pampered students here in the west whose oppression is only inside their own imaginations.

“I was born in the P.R.C., it’s such a tragedy,
It’s a so-called nation, but really a fake nation.
I don’t want to living here, I don’t have any choice,
There’s only one party here, I want to be their enemy.
I was born in the P.R.C., the nation with autocracy,
Punx Rebellion of China, is what it means to me.
I was born in the P.R.C., in 2 years I’ll be 40,
Still can’t live freely, that’s why I’m still on stage”

SMZB keep up the pace with ‘Road To Petition’ which brings in the banjo to great effect while ‘Generation’ has a much more traditional folky feel to it showing that the lads can turn it up and down when required. The next song is ‘Flower Of The Socialism’ and is fast heads down, balls out, two fingers to the world, punk rock which slows down only briefly for a few seconds of tin whistle while band founder Wu Wei spits out the words that obviously come straight from his heart.

“You have to try to play your role well, or choose to be a bastard.
You have to try to forget your dream, and then into the arm of reality.
You can’t to extricate yourself from here, you are the one of scars.
Socialism already in bloomed here, you have also sprouted in this land”

smzb-logo-2The next couple of songs, ‘Sunny Speculation’ and ‘One Night In Prison’ are sung in their native language again. Fast tuneful Murphyesque punk is the order of the day. They may have started as a straight up punk band but its thanks to the fantastic abilities of Tang on bagpipes and tin whistle and Tu Dou on banjo that that transition has been so successful. ‘Welcome To China’ sees a return to English in a song that bites back against tourism and the attitude of tourists when they visit China. Now if you have heard ‘White Noise’ on the Stiff Little Fingers album Inflammable Material then you will get what the breakneck ‘The Chinese Are Coming Again’ is about. If you haven’t heard it then give it a quick blast here. Its fair to say their still enormous mistrust of Chinese immigrants and here SMZB expose the bigots that would treat people as a mass rather than individuals. ‘Colonial Trip’ features a guest female vocalist and is reminescent of The Dubliners/Pogues until an electric guitar bursts in and we are brought up to the present day. A great song that nicely straddles both the past and present and even ends with some trumpet playing thrown in to the mix. ‘Tattoo The Earth’ again is more Poguesy while ‘Redemption Song’ takes Bob Marley’s original song and turns it into a celtic-punk classic with the pipes playing loud and proud. The Chinese Are Coming comes to an end with the absolutely stunning ‘Song Of The Seagull’. The longest track on the album, at well over seven minutes, its a tribute to Lin Zhao. A Chinese student from Peking University who was jailed in 1960 for pro-democracy activities. The song is based on a poem she wrote in prison where, forbidden to use pens, she composed countless articles and poems using a hairpin dipped in her own blood. In 1968 she was executed and in 1981 Lin was officially exonerated though the Chinese government still to this day are reluctant to allow any mention of her or her writings. Find out more about the tragic life of Lin Zhao here.

Beginning with just piano, acoustic guitar and the beautiful voice of their guest vocalist (sorry but I couldn’t find her name anywhere) before the full band kicks in with their tribute and some angry celtic-punk rock brings the curtain down on the song and the album. I simply cannot imagine a better way to end this album. A song dripping with emotion and meaning and that symbolises everything that SMZB stand for.

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Fifteen tracks and over fifty minutes to boot that gives you more than enough for your money and if there is ever a band in the celtic-punk scene that demands your support than it is SMZB. Being the only celtic-punk band in your state or city can be a lonely experience but SMZB have become an icon of Chinese music that deserve to be heard far beyond their own country. What they have to say is important and we can be grateful that they have chosen to wrap it some of the best celtic-punk music you will hear.

(listen to The Chinese Are Coming for free by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below before splashing out your $10 on buying it and supporting this awesome band!)

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(full concert of SMZB from their 15th Anniversary show back in 2011)

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ALBUM REVIEW: FOX n FIRKIN- ‘No Vacancy’ (2016)

Mandolin, Banjo, Electric Guitar, Bass and Drums

Brisbane Australia Celtic-Punk

Fox n Firkin - No Vacancy Cover Art

We are very lucky at the moment for the band that I consider to be the best celtic-punk band in the entire fecking world has embarked on a epic European tour that will eventually take in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Yes The Rumjacks have already flown the coop and left Australia and at the moment are probably wandering round some city in mainland Europe taking selfies and boozing it up with the local celtic-punk brigade. Now if I have said it once here on the London Celtic Punks blog then I have said it twenty or thirty times that the best celtic-punk band in the world is The Rumjacks and the best celtic-punk bands in the world are Australian. Maybe its the history of Australia and the way the country was founded or the massive migrations (some forced some not!) of celtic people that made it that way but their bands tend to have something really authentic about them and especially lyric wise they definitely dominate. Well just the other week I received the new album from Fox n Firkin a band I had heard of before but knew very little about except that they shared a record label with the awesome Tasmanian celtic-folk-punkers The Dead Maggies so with that in mind I thought I would rather like them and rather like them I surely did!

Fox n Firkin

(from left to right) Leigh Mitchell- Bass, Adrian Kay- Mandolin/ Banjo/ Vocals, Andrew Boyle- Guitar/ Vocals, Robbie Fraser- Drums/ Vocals

Formed in early 2012 in the capital city of Brisbane in Queensland in eastern Australia Fox n Firkin have taken the harder edged route into celtic-punk and though they would probably be nearer to the Dropkick Murphys than Flogging Molly but they don’t sound much like the Murphys either. One of the things about the Aussie celtic-punk scene is how they manage to find new approaches in what you would think is quite a narrow genre and make it really original. Fox n Firkin are no different to their peers and have a fresh original sound that fuses those celtic and folk instruments like mandolin and banjo to quality punk rock melodies. Fiercely independent they released a couple of DIY EP’s but have recently joined up, and have found the perfect label to support them in, Folk Till Ya Punk Records. They produced their first independently released EP To Hell And Back in May, 2013 and was produced By Fox n Firkin and Greg Arnott and is available as a ‘name your price’ download on Bandcamp below.

They followed this up with another brilliant 4-track EP ‘Roppongi’ release on December 1st, 2013 which if you buy the CD contains the best version of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ you will ever hear I fecking promise you.

Released on April Fools Day this year this debut album from Fox n Firkin is ten quality punky celtic-punk tracks with that unmistakeable Aussie sound that we go absolute ape shit for here at London Celtic Punks. Ten songs that clock in at just over half an hour and includes nine original F n F compositions and only one cover. No Vacancy kicks off with ‘Drink The Lot’ and from the first few bars of mandolin you know you are in for a treat. Catchy and tuneful punk rock with a load of folk influences chucked in as well. Bit of an anthem this I would suspect and good for getting the crowd joining in the simple but effective chorus. ‘My Country’s Shame’ follows and tells the story of the birth of Australia under Britain’s glorious control and the genocide and oppression they heaped upon the indigenous people. Faster and again the mando to the fore and a Rancid/Bad Religion feel to it. ‘No Vacancy’ was the lead single from the album back in March preparing the world for the album that was to come. The song has a bouncy ska feel to it and unlike the rest of the album has no swearing! I realise its almost a criminal offence to say you’re not a big ska fan but there you go. I much prefer the rest of the album myself but, don’t worry, I know I am in the minority here! The song is about the reaction in Australia to asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants.

No Vacancy continues with ‘Long Road From Hell’ one of the (slightly) slower tracks and also one of the most celtic-punk tunes here. Banjo appears and the fits the song superbly and again as catchy as fecking hell. On hearing ‘El Condor Pasa (If I Could)’ you may think it familiar and you’d be right. Written by Peruvian song writer Daniel Alomía Robles in 1913 and made famous by 60’s folk pioneers and legends Simon and Garfunkel.

“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail
Yes I would”

A brilliant song and hats off to them for choosing such an unusual cover to record. Makes a change from ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ at any rate.

‘Days Long Gone’ and ‘The Violent Majority’ follow and the sound is shifting about thanks to the use of banjo and mandolin in different songs but still following that trademark Fox’n’Firkin sound. ‘Bastard Brigade’ is another drinking song and the celtic is turned right up on this. Another one for the crowd to sing along to and punch the air. Nearly at the end and the fastest song here ‘Too Hip 4ZZZ’ puts the boot into shite music and music radio that only play trendy crap. Have to say that F n F never sound more Aussie that on this song! No Vacancy comes to an end with ‘Burn The Rich’ and no explanation of the lyrics is needed I am hoping? Another great track that doesn’t sound like the rest of the album but is far from a novelty song I tells you.

So after their first two EP’s I have got to say that Fox’n’Firkin have really hit the jackpot here with No Vacancy. A quality debut album that from beginning to end is just catchy as hell celtic-punk rock with great vocals and lyrics. On the punkier side of things but refreshing to these ears that they are doing their own thing and not aping any band I have heard recently.

“fusing traditional Irish instrumentation and melodies into blistering catchy punk rock”

is how they describe themselves and you know what? I couldn’t put it better myself!

(you can have a sneaky free listen to ‘No Vacancy’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below before buying!)

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FromTheBand  Folk’TilYaPunkRecords  

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  • read the review posted by our mates at Celtic Folk Punk And More here won’t ya?

EP REVIEW: DRUNKEN FAIRY TALES – ‘Пьяные Сказки’ (2016)

A band from Moscow playing Irish punk.

Songs about pubs, Guinness, streams of whiskey, docks and romantic Irish fairy tales!

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Drunken Fairy Tales

One of the best things about celtic-punk over the last few years has been the emergence of bands from all over the world who play the music as good as any band born on the ‘auld sod’ would. One of the best scenes going has to be the one in Russia with some truly great bands and people who work together to help push the scene along and keep it moving in a positive direction.

Drunken Fairy Tales 2Drunken Fairy Tales are one of those bands involved in promoting the scene. They have been around since Christmas Eve 2010 and have been extremely prolific in that time recording and releasing several records and becoming very popular in Moscow and beyond. So it is in their sixth year they have released their best record yet and not just that but they have shown a progression that is sometimes lacking in the celtic-punk scene. Their can be a tendency sometimes for bands to rest on their laurels and coast along and as much as we like to hear what we know and love it’s also good to hear bands shake it up a bit and try different things.

Drunken Fairy Tales 1

The EP is six songs long and is to be filed alongside Flogging Molly/the traditional Irish style of celtic-punk. Vanes accordion and Sasha’s fiddle lead the way and from the very first few bars of ‘Картошка’ (‘Potatoes’) the music leaps right out at you. Fast, furious and extremely well played. The boys sing in Russian through out and as we have mentioned often time before we totally respect that and we even go as far as to promote it. This is followed by ‘Пьяные Сказки’ (‘Drunken Fairy Tales’) and is the bands signature tune. Starting off firmly in the celtic-punk camp it doesn’t take long to veer through Russian folk and then ska before ending with a right auld Irish flourish! Sadly we can’t tell you what the lyrics are about but you can bet your bottom dollar its pure uplifting stuff. No time for maudlin here with some proper party music. Another thing mentioned by us often is the ability of bands to capture on record their manic live performances and this is what Drunken Fairy Tales have managed. It is so well recorded that in parts it almost sounds a live gig! ‘О’Хара’ (‘O’Hara’) is next and the pace doesn’t let up for a second with the accordion on fire and keeping it well lit! ‘Старушка Молли’ (‘Old Girl Molly’) as you could possibly guess has more than just a wee nod in the direction of those other famous Molly’s and ‘Изумрудная Борода’ (‘Emerald Beard’) may be the slowest song on the EP, not that that means its slow, but for me works the best and is my favourite track here. The EP ends with ‘Скейтборд’ (‘Skateboard’) and sounds just like an Irish folk Rancid with that accordion again working overtime and the EP ends as it began… breathlessly!

‘Пьяные Сказки’ was released on March 21st and comes in just shy of twenty minutes. The band have been very very generous and have made the entire EP available for download for free! The boys don’t even want a donation off you either… so you simply have no excuse at all NOT to download this great EP right away. DO IT NOW!!!!

(you can listen to the entire EP below by pressing play on the Bandcamp player and then follow the link below to download it)

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(a full concert from Drunken Fairy Tales. sound a bit iffy but still great)

ALBUM REVIEW: THE POTATO PIRATES- ‘Raised Better Than This’ (2014)

hard and fast blue collar American punk rock with bagpipes

The Potato Pirates- 'Raised Better Than This' (2014)

The Potato Pirates hail from Denver, Colorado in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. Known as ‘The Mile-High City’, Denver sits at an altitude of 5,280 feet (1,600 m) above sea level and lies where the Great Plains give way to the Rocky Mountains. Interestingly 10% of the population of Denver are Irish, which just goes to show how deeply embedded peoples roots actually are in America. The Potato Pirates are a five piece punk band with lots of celtic/folk punk influences. Forming in 2003 their sound is a mix of various styles of punk with touches of ska but all done with Scottish bagpipes.

‘Raised Better Than This’ is The Potato Pirates third album and easily their most accomplished to date. Twelve tracks that clock in at just a few seconds under half an hour means that the songs fly past at a good rate of knots with an infectious, youthful exuberance you dont often hear in celtic punk circles where sometimes bands can take themselves a wee bit too seriously. To be sure this is punk rock with bagpipes and of course comparisons with The Dropkick Murphys are inevitable but its The DKM’s debut album ‘Do Or Die’ that it reminds me of. Heads down straight up punk with shouty duo vocals and superbly played bagpipes that completely fit in with the style of music rather than being shoe-horned in.

The Potato Pirates

from left to right Andrew-Bass, Steve-Drums, Scott-Lead Vocals and Bagpipes, Vinny-Lead Vocals and Guitar, Matt-Lead Guitar

Kicking off with ‘March On’ a fast as hell celtic-punk blockbuster with the vocals shouted over driving pipes and bagpipes you instantly where this album is going. The next few songs leave out the pipes and the band concentrate on playing some solid punk. ‘Bruised Deaf Sore’ has a real Rancid sound to it started off with a ska beat crashing forth between punk. ‘I Will Defend’ is the fastest song on the album. Tuneful hardcore punk that’s as clear as a bell and talks of the human instinct to protect those things dear to us- our families, our friends and ourselves.

‘Cant Go Back’ is an older song the boys have re-recorded. The pipes are back for next song ‘Oh The Humanity’ and so begins the most celtic section of the album with the punk a wee bit softer, but not soft!, and the pipes leading the way.  ‘Tequila Romance’ chucks in ska, punk and celtic and comes up with a real standout track. ‘Thinkin Bout Drinkin’ begins with a slow acoustic guitar intro before thrashing guitars give way to ska and then returning to thrashing about. ‘Dead To Me’ has a melodic hardcore sound which as you can tell is about getting rid of mates who stab you in the back. ‘Boots For Brains’ has an absolutely great pipes solo from Scott and even though I would like to hear more myself I’d have to admit it’s probably enough for most people.

The albums standout track for me. ‘Outta My City’ tella of the recent worldwide invasion of the ‘hipster’. Cant be arsed to explain what this middle class phenomenon is just look it up and marvel at what some people/idiots will fall for. Tongue firmly in cheek The Potato Pirates have a grand sense of humour and  ‘Gullible’

“I’d rather die than live for you”

the lads sing in another album highlight and yeah The Potato Pirates can be a bit irreverent but they can also write some serious shit too. The album ends with ‘Struggle’ and sounds like a cross between Agnostic Front and the oft mentioned Rancid. Another great song with some more serious lyrics to end on.

“Celebrate disaster, It makes you live your life, Embrace conflict, It keeps you on your toes and putting up a fight”

Overall an anthemic album with shedloads of fist in the air moments. The Potato Pirates have surpassed themselves with ‘Raised Better Than This’ and have come up with an album where the sound though brutal at times is carried along with a clear sound, top musicianship and brilliant sometimes funny and sometimes profound lyrics. The celticness though only a small part of their sound it’s still an important part and though I may be biased they were the songs I enjoyed most though thats not to say the rest of the album is pretty damn good as well!

The Potato Pirates

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