The World’s Loudest Folk Band
One of the first and most enduring bands on the Celtic-Punk underground, Chicago’s The Tossers are back with a ‘new’ album of classics, standards and originals that mix the attitude and swagger of Punk Rock with a muscular but respectful approximation of Irish traditional Folk music.
It’s been six years since the last Tossers release and for them that is a loooong time. The new album unoriginally titled just The Tossers came out in February to highlight their 30th anniversary concert dates and as such is a very welcome return for what are a Premier League Celtic-Punk band.
The Tossers come from Chicago. In fact they come from the South of Chicago. This is the area that the huge Irish Catholic community had traditionally called home since the 19th century. From just a few hundred in the 1830s, by 1860 Chicago had emerged as the fourth largest Irish city in America and was estimated at nearly 300,000 by 1890. Unlike their counterparts in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, however, Chicago’s Irish grew up with their city and exerted an influence out of proportion to their numbers. The immigrant history of Chicago of course doesn’t just stop at the Irish with Poles, Germans, Bohemians, Lithuanians, Italians, and Slovaks all having been led to the Midwest as well looking for a better life in the land of opportunity. While most Irish-American families in Chicago are three are four generations deep, plenty of Chicago’s Irish have immigrated fairly recently and the Irish still lead the way in the amount of foreign born residents with many arriving in the 1980’s and 1990’s due to recession back home and Chicago’s strong links to back home.
The south side of Chicago had, and still does, a tough working class reputation and it was there that a 18 year old hard luck kid called Anthony Duggins from the south side of town began playing traditional Irish folk music in the neighbourhood pubs. It wasn’t long before he was joined by his brother and best friends and before long they had moved on from playing covers from the likes of Christy Moore and Ewan MacColl and were playing Anthony’s original compositions. They soon became The Tossers taking their name from the slang for worthless British coins in Sean O’Casey’s play The Plough and the Stars. The coins became useless after the southern Irish Free State won independence from Britain, and started to print it’s own currency.
The new album begins with one of the originals here and ‘Americay’ takes yo right back to the last time you listened to The Tossers. Perhaps nothing new but a joyous and raucous celebration of the Irish in America. The Tossers can lay claim to being the most obvious band to carry on The Pogues torch and their worth to the Irish community is massive. Anthony’s distinctive vocals and American Irish brogue dominate the music which is some feat as they are are correctly labelled ‘The World’s Loudest Folk Band’. Next up is one of the many re-recordings here, ‘D’ampton Worm’ is a song from the north-east of England telling of the legend of the giant white worm-like creature that lived in the caverns beneath the Lambton Estate in County Durham. The song first appeared on 2001’s Communication & Conviction and so maybe an unusual song to bring back but still a gem. The Tossers write some fantastic lyrics and though they often touch on serious subjects they do know their audience well and love dropping in a good auld drinking song. ‘Buckets Of Beer’ is from their aptly titled debut album We’ll Never Be Sober Again from 1996. A fast crowd pleaser with an easy chorus to singalong to with a subtext of five guys robbing a bank with the bucket being the spoils of the robbery.
(live recording of Tossers classic ‘Siobhan’ and ‘Buckets Of Beer’ at the the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana the day after St. Patrick’s day 2023)
So the first three songs have all whizzed by in just over six minutes so time for a bit of an epic and one of a handful of songs that is guaranteed to get the audience going. For a band that channels The Pogues so well they handle ‘Dirty Ol’ Town’ with ease. Anthony’s voice always conveys total conviction in every thing he sings and he gets the emotions of the song over in a way that not many are able. Ewan MacColl was said to be unhappy at Shane’s version so I hope he’ll find peace with The Tossers. Seemingly desperate to cover every ‘Celtic-Punk base’ as fast as possible they now throw up some trad with a upbeat ‘Fermoy Lasses / Sporting Paddy’ that has been and gone in 99 seconds!
(The Tossers live at The Grog Shop, Cleveland, Ohio on March 5th 2023)
‘Aye Sir’ is another track cut from their debut album and the ultimate tribute to the waster’s life!
“Well, I’ll go off and get real famous just like my brother Seamus
The people I got to see’cause the world is at my feet
I don’t need you assholes standing
Standing in my way
For I’ll get drunk and probably knock you down”
One of the first songs that Anthony wrote and The Tossers performed he says
“it’s about a young Irish sailor, and every fantastically juvenile verse is followed by an equally childish shout of “Boozer, Hookers, Aye sir.” (Let’s face it, there will always be prostitutes, sailors and marines.) This song not only reminds me of a time in history, but also of my own childhood innocence, ignorance and adolescence.”
A new song follows and ‘Irish Blood’ tells the tale of the American Irish all within three minutes. One of the startling things here is when compared to the songs from the very very beginnings of The Tossers it is clear they have have lost none of their energy and vim and play at a pace that you’re mammy would think was impossible! Another Pogues classic pops up next and once again ‘Paddy On The Railway’ shows the lads ability to remind you so much of The Pogues without it ever crossing your mind that they are ‘copying’ or aping the London Bhoys. ‘Paper And Pins’ is another taken from Communication & Conviction and a very clever song about a man courting a lass and the twists and turns in the courtship. The album ends with three stonewall classics of Irish Folk all done absolutely brilliant. ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’, ‘Tell Me Ma’ and ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ may have all been recorded countless times and played live to infinity but as I’ve said The Tossers make everything sound new and vibrant especially the uncredited ‘Maidrin Rua’ intro to ‘Tell Me Ma’.
So kind of a strange album to release John over at Shite ‘n’ Onions Celtic-Punk web site reckons “it’s a self-finance, stop-gap release to support the bands 30th anniversary tour” which is probably right and while we would have loved to hear more new material it is still a pleasure to get anything from The Tossers. With their 30th anniversary dates over the word is that they are writing and recording for a full length studio album so keep your eyes peeled for that and enjoy this while you’re waiting!
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