The Pokes rock. The Pokes are danceable. Berlin’s No. 1 Folk-Punk band are back with a new 7″ vinyl release.
It’s been seven years since The Pokes were last featured on these pages for their album Mayday, and the intervening years seem to have done them no harm judging by this their new single. Now two tracks in seven years doesn’t seem like much of a return but I have to say that both these songs are top notch and I thoroughly enjoyed them and hopefully they point to a rejuvenated Pokes and new recordings to come. Based in Berlin, Germany ‘Sail’ is the bands sixth release since their debut EP Hello, My Dear in 2005 and show a band that has always took it’s time and never rushed out their releases. On their web-site you can download for free a whole bunch of songs from their previous albums which track their progression from those early days and their incorporation of genres like Klezmer and Ska into their trademark sound. In the review of Mayday I compared them to legendary Geordie Folk-Punkers The Whisky Priests but here on ‘Sail’ they have a far more punky sound while still retaining a whole host of Folk and Celtic instruments.
The first track here is ‘Catch Me’ and a tale of a harassed delivery driver rushing from delivery to delivery (“Call me wanker, Call me Santa, I’m the parcel guy on the run”) and a plea for us all to be nicer to them though I must admit to not finding it easy when you find a parcel outside in the rain because they haven’t rang the doorbell! Catchy as feck with chugging guitar and fiddle the song soon sweeps away with accordion and drums kicking in. The Pokes manage to convey their message with humour something a lot of bands ought to realise makes it easier to digest. (“Yeah, one day I am going to burn, Burn all your parcels and quit”) A fantastic start which even sees the pipes taking a turn halfway though the song and we can never resist the sound of that magical instrument. The title track ‘Sail!’ is the flipside and again is sung in English, not untypical for German bands at all. The song has a sea-shanty feel to it unsurprisingly and while it may have been middle-class hipsters that brought the sea-shanty back out into the open again Celtic-Punk bands have been singing them for decades now. The accordion is king here and leads from beginning to end as the catchiness reaches #11!
Together the 7″ lasts almost eight minutes so decent value too. Released primarily on vinyl which has slowly but surely started to return to Celtic-Punk the cover features accordion player Matthias and is released on the famous German DIY label Mad Butcher Records. These two songs can be viewed as a taster as the good news is that a fifth Pokes album is currently on the way and will also be released by Mad Butcher. What can we say except more of the same please guys!!
Ten years young so time for their debut album! German Celtic-rockers Kings & Boozers have Still Got the Booze !
Kings & Boozers are the latest band in the glorious history of German Celtic-Punk to feature here. Ten years young this year they were born out of the ashes of long time German scene stalwarts Lady Godiva who released several albums from 1994 to 2006 of a more folky version of Celtic-Punk. When they called it a day two bands would emerge with Muirsheen Durkin & Friends one (check out our review of their 2018 album here) which carried on in the same folky Irish vein as Lady Godiva and the much harder edged Kings & Boozers. Both new bands have a crossover of members so there’s a lot of co-operation between them but both have taken different routes on the Celtic-Punk highway and have delivered two completely different sounding albums.
Still Got The Booze is their debut release and we have a combination of covers, both well known and not so, traditional folk and fast rockin’ punk all taking their place. Kicking off with the short intro of a loser in a pub crying into his beer before the album really kicks off with the title song and ‘Still Got The Booze’ and sets the story of the band to a great Irish influenced folk-punk tune. Tin-whistle and accordion lead the Celtic side of things and singer Thomas has that raspy, 60 fags a day singing voice that a few German bands go for but also seems to fit the music so well. A real thigh slapper to start with before the first of three Lady Godiva songs are re-visited. Not knowing them I had a brief look through You Tube and can only guess they are beefed up a bit from those original versions. ‘One Whisky’ continues in the same vein.It’s high tempo and super catchy with the guitars and drums leading the Celtic instruments on a merry dance. ‘One Whiskey’ was also recorded by Muirsheen Durkin on their recent album and you could safely say is the folk opposite of the Boozers punky version. Thomas even sings both versions I think! Next up is one of my favourite songs and one I have been suggesting to bands to cover for years. ‘Bold Fenian Men’ has all the necessary parts to make it one of the most famous Irish rebel songs. Sacrifice and war and love abound in a song based on the aftermath of the failed 1916 uprising in Dublin against British occupation. Best known as played by Irish legends The Wolfe Tones the song was written by Peadar Kearney, who also wrote the Irish national anthem. The Boozers version keeps it slow but with chugging guitar and some excellent drums while Thomas is joined on vocals by Mike Rivkees of the Boston based ‘Celtic-Punk Next Big Thing’ Mickey Rickshaw.
“Some died by the glenside, some died near a stranger
And wise men have told us their cause was a failure
But they fought for old Ireland and never feared danger
Glory O, Glory O, to the bold Fenian men”
This people is how to play a standard. The guys have a wicked sense of humour and show it next on ‘Seven Paddies in Berlin’. The song has already seen the light of day as it was featured on Raise Your Pints Volume 3- MacSlon’s Irish Pub Radio sampler CD. Drugs and drink are taken as the Bhoys have a debauched trip to the German capital. Another Boozers & Kings composition follows with the slow and melancholic ‘Queen Of Hearts’ and every decent Celtic-Punk album needs at least one of these with Thomas singing of cards not women! A smattering of covers follow beginning with ‘Drunken Scotsman’ originally by Mike Cross, a naughty song about kilts that came out in the late 70’s and is given the Celtic-Punk treatment this is followed by another Lady Godiva tune ‘In God We Trust’. Again its played with a bit more bite and they nail it as their own.
When choosing their cover versions Boozers And Kings have done very well and were lucky on ‘The Raven’ to have the songs writers Gary Miller and Mick Tyas of The Whisky Priests along for the ride. The Whisky Priests were from County Durham in the north-east of England and were around from 1985 to 2002 and though very popular here at home they were absolutely massive over in Germany so it’s great to see them remembered and even greater news is that plans are afoot for their reformation of the band and tours, record re-releases and even new recordings are all in the planning stages. Renowned for their live shows and hectic touring schedule they built up a great reputation so its brilliant news that we’ll see them back playing live again soon.
The song is from the 1992 Timeless Street album and what they have produced is so much more than just a bog standard cover. The love and respect oozes from it and the tune itself is a worthy tribute to the soon to be back with us again Whisky Priests. It’s fast and that unmistakable north-eastern England sound that differentiates it from the Irish influenced folk of the Boozers. A great song telling of a bastard who grows from child to man and only ever changes when the full moon shines.
“His heart was made like an evil blade
Hard steel with a thirsty lust for blood
His soul dwelt on the dark side of the grave
And his body held no love”
Again it’s catchy as hell and leads us nicely into a cover of the ever popular ‘Wild Rover’. Yeah its been done to death but it’s given a bit of a twist here with the Boozers covering Craic Haus version of the song. Sung to the tune of ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ its a great twist and has what Craic Haus have christened Shamrockabilly coursing through it. We heading towards the end so time for another jokey song with Milwaukee singer/songwriter Pat McCurdy’s epic ‘Sex and Beer’.
As you can imagine its not a totally serious song but great fun nevertheless. The third Lady Godiva song ‘Remember The Time’ is a sentimental rocker that leads us into the final and ‘Everyman Is A King’ brings down the curtain. Written by Pogues mandolin player Terry Woods and fellow Irish legend Ron Kavana the song appeared first as the B-side to ‘White City’ before being included on the expanded release of Peace And Love.
“From the far corners they made it their home
The Eyeties and Germans, the Paddies the Poles
Goin’ down in the dirt comin’ up with the gold
Like Bill Fuller, the Kennedys and Corleones”
A fantastic song that takes in what we all love and hate about the States but overall the opportunity it gave to so many people fleeing from poverty, and worse. Thomas gives it a decent Terry Woods impression and it’s a solid version that doesn’t stray too far from the original.
Produced by Sebastian ‘Seeb’ Levermann, of famous German metallers Orden Ogan and owner of the Greenman Studios he has done a grand job taking the folk and punk elements and combining them to make a powerful album that is not over produced or sees either wing of their music over dominating. Ten years since they first kicked off is a rather long time to get your debut album out but it was a wait worth waiting for.Their experience in other bands has stood them well and whether you call them Folk Punk or Celtic Rock it doesn’t really matter as the one thing you are guaranteed is a damn good time and they have managed to successfully transfer that sound onto Still Got The Booze.
Five crazy Bruchem people. Let them explode. Get a joyful mix of celtic, punk, rock, and folk.
On first listen this seems a rather odd album here from Dutch folkies Pyrolysis that sits very nicely on the folkier side of celtic-punk. Repeated listening to ‘On Mountains High I Stand’ reveals a really nice traditional folk sound that isn’t afraid to go heads down into celtic-punk territory sometimes. The band I am most reminded of here is The Whisky Priests who flamed very brightly cross Europe in the 90’s with their unique brand of Geordie (Newcastle) English folk-punk music. The album begins with a pirate-punk song called ‘Yarr’ and from the off you can tell this is not going to be an album you will be able to pigeonhole easily. A quest for adventure and treasure while plundering and drinking! The accordion reigns here and in pretty much every song is the dominant instrument.
The band sing of their love for whiskey in ‘Black Grouse Noise’ which adds in electric guitar for the first time and Pyrolysis show their punkier side. ‘Face’ starts and within the first few bars you’re not quite sure whether its heading in a punk, ska or folk direction and in the end it ends up as a heads down rock number with distorted guitar and gang vocals but its the addition of Hammond organ that brings the song out of the ordinary. On ‘Morrison’s Jig’ the band go all out traditional and fiddle and bodhran are to the fore and they pull it off admirably. A real barnstormer this. One of the absolute album stand out tracks is ‘Battle Cry’ and to fully appreciate the song watch it with the video below.
The electric guitars are a wee bit subdued and the accordion and vocals shine right out at you.
“The grace of God from far above
Is nowhere to be found
The helmet are the sight
And the horns they are the sound”
A very definite Scottish folk sound here with the occasional nod over to the Emerald Isle and ‘A Song Called Cheese’ shows a lighter side to Pyrolysis and their sense of humour. The flute pops up with a thundering bass in the back ground and a real foot tapper begins. Sounding rather like celtic-indie they may have started their own genre but ‘Wake’ returns them to their folk roots.They pull off a fantastic version of ‘Wind That Shakes The Barley’ next and breathe new life into this classic song. Beginning with piano and then closely followed by fiddle this is an extremely well played and catchy instrumental tune. The song ends and instantly cracks into ‘Loch Lomond’ and the switch from Ireland to Scotland is at its most blatant with this superb acapella version of this classic traditional song first published back in 1841. Its origins are unsure but the most popular theory is that it is connected to the failed Jacobite Uprising of 1745 and that the lyrics describe a lover of a captured Jacobite rebel set to be executed in London. The heads of the executed rebels were then set upon pikes and exhibited in all of the towns between London and Edinburgh in a procession along the ‘high road’, the most important road, while the relatives of the rebels walked back along the ‘low road’, the ordinary road travelled by peasants and commoners.
“O ye’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye,
Where me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond”
The version performed by Pyrolysis is best remembered by the legendary English 60’s folk group The King’s Singers with the second and third verses originally by a bass and tenor (listen here) but Pyrolysis have added female vocals and it sounds great. In its native Scotland the song is often the final piece of music played after an evening of partying though here though it signals just over half way point of the album. ‘Salvation’takes them in another direction and reminds me a lot of The Men They Couldn’t Hang before it gets going and goes off in a pop-punk direction. ‘Standing Tall (Above It All) takes a harder musical approach with you thinking its really going to take off before it slows down again before the chugging guitars come in. Possibly the most celtic-punk sounding of the albums tracks I would say with the electric guitars sounding terrific. ‘Life At Morrisons’ is another stand out and again i think the guitars could have done with being turned up a tad but a great song that rattles along with distorted guitar and harmonica pushing it along. A great drunken video clip is worth a watch. Great fun and filmed in Morrisons Irish Pub in their home town of Rossum in the Netherlands.
The album is coming to an end and ‘Lets Do It Now’ is a short punky number that shows that Pyrolysis can turn their hand to traditional punk as well as traditional folk music! ‘Rofuss’ is the final track and is the albums most epic and ambitious song. A long rambling track of flute and bodhran and fiddle and voice and all manner of instruments that perfectly shows Pyrolysis talents.
Pyrolysis from left to right: Tim Elfring (Bass and Backing Vocals) * Laurens Krah (Keys and Accordion) * Rikke Linssen (Violin and Backing Vocals) * Stan Eimers (Lead Vocals and Drum) * Sven Schipper (Guitar)
Formed only five years ago this album is a follow up to the 2012 mini-album/EP ‘Remedy For The Night’ and is ever so slightly a wee bit unpolished but so what. Since when has music been about perfect production. Celtic music is music to be enjoyed live and this album has a real good live feel to it and that is what makes it such a fun listen. Fourteen songs that take just over forty minutes to play so the songs rattle along at a fair old speed and there’s no pause for breath. I can easily recommend this album for you. I have been playing it here at London Celtic Punks headquarters and have seriously enjoyed this infectious romp through celtic-folk-punk.
(to hear the whole of ‘On Mountains High I Stand’ press play on the Bandcamp player directly below. Click on the link below the player to buy the album.)