Spud N***er: Scratchings – The Free Spuds EP

As a sub-genre, ‘Celtic Folk Punk’ tends to be a hybrid; a combination of traditional and punk styles. It’s songs, (contemporary, traditional, or a mixture of the two,) and instrumentation, (from both the rock and traditional music arenas, i.e. electric guitars with fiddles, whistles and/or pipes, etc.,) make up the elements that typically define this style of music. Nevertheless, almost as if this seemingly instinctive concept wasn’t properly explained, along comes ‘Spud N**ger,’ a band that is Celtic, being from the very middle of the Emerald Isle,) Folk, (well, acoustic anyways,) and Punk, (in almost every other interpretation of the definition.)

More specifically, ‘Spud N**ger’ is an acoustic punk trio out of County Westmeath, in the center of Ireland. Made up of acoustic guitar, bass, drums and vocals, the three-piece outfit plays fast-moving, upbeat punk in a stripped-down, minimalist style entirely like itself and no one else.

‘Scratchings’, the sampler EP from the band, contains five tracks with lyrics embracing the punk ethos and ideals of anti-authoritarianism, anomie, and rebellion, on top of fast-moving, driving rhythms. Though strictly acoustic, and thusly devoid of any distortion or effects, the tracks on ‘Scratchings’ still provide a broad and varied sound and, while a family resemblance between each song is undeniable, each has a unique personality of it own.

The disc’s five tracks continue with the bare-essentials mentality and contain no elaborate intros, solos, spoken word, raps-in-the-middle, or drawn-out fade-to-silences. In fact, the song lengths on the E.P. ring in at an average of just two and a half minutes each. Without the additional instrumentation of larger bands, however, and with the lack of solos, the vocals and lyrics tend to fall under the lead spotlight. In the case of “Da Spuds,” as they are sometimes billed, this is not a bad thing at all. Lead vocalist, Fr. Jack’s voice is both confident and in control as he delivers the one-two punch of lyrics comfortably and clearly. The lyrics themselves are clever, laden with locally specific terminology, (i.e. ‘The Gardai,’ ‘Donegal,’ or as in lines like “when coming off the smack you stole the bogroll in the jacks,” from ‘Cake ‘N’ Beer,) and often humorous, and, partially due to the shortage of competing sounds, distinct and easy to make out. The songs are also very sing-along-able, (although some discretion is suggested due to certain “grown-up words,” especially in the song, ‘Donegal!’)

Describing the Spud N**ger’s sound is not an easy task. There are elements here and there that may remind the listener of something else, (like the attitude of The Ramones every now and again, or occasional rhythms reminiscent of Nirvana,) but, as there really is no one else doing this style that I am aware of, I won’t continue to attempt this exercise.

‘Scratchings’ may be only five tracks and less than twelve minutes longs, (and, apparently free to anyone in Ireland!), but, hopefully, it does give an indication of what to expect from this band.

As such, it makes it known that Spud N**ger is definitely a band to watch out for.


Review by Christopher Toler, THE Blathering Gommel

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