A coupla’ months ago I ran across this band and ordered their debut CD, Bruised But Not Beaten and found it to be a very enjoyable entry into my Paddy-Punk library. And although this first release didn’t immediately inspire me to write a review, it had certainly whetted my appetite for further material. Fortuitous timing as I discovered this 2006 release only weeks before their follow-up disc, Neatly Stumblin’ was released. It is this CD that I am writing about today.
The Fisticuffs are a young, (formed in 2005,) six-piece hailing from South-Side Chicago and according to their MySpace page, list The Tossers and Flogging Molly early amongst their influences. These influences are evident from the first listen through, and comparisons to those bands are proving a challenge to avoid. So apologies in advance.
Neatly Stumblin’s instrumentation includes fiddle, mandolin, whistle, guitar, bass and drums, with some added harmonica and banjo peppered in here and there for some added spice. At the front of this mix are Bobby Baldwin’s barking vocals coming in like a mid-way point between Flogging Molly’s Dave King and The Killigan’s Brad Hoffman, but with a pinch more ire, like he is justing getting past a mean case of road rage. My only complaint is that they seem mixed a slight bit too loud on some songs, giving a feeling of disconnectedness from the rest of musicians. This, however, is not the case for all tracks, fortunately, and the majority of the vocals work quite well with the rest of the sound creating a solid recognizable entity.
The band chose to include a couple of covers on this release, (including Whiskey in the Jar, and Finnegan’s Wake,) however, with a total of sixteen tracks on the disc bringing it’s total time in at just under an hour, one can’t really accuse them of using covers as “filler” material. Originals on the disc range from toe-tappers to mosh soundtracks to a couple of lilting instrumentals, without a dog in the bunch. However, I have no idea why the band chose to not put God Bless Ya Rosie on their MySpace page. This is an awesome song that would definitely be moving this disc!
Now I know that this is reflective of my own personal tastes, but the mandolin/fiddle interplay from the debut release is what made me buy this sophomore disc, and I am really happy I did. This particular element is a strong feature on Neatly Stumblin’ and, along with Mr. Baldwin’s enthusiastic vocals, really creates a defining signature sound for this band.
With its many good songs and catchy riffs, I would recommend The Fisticuffs’ Neatly Stumblin’ for fans of Flogging Molly, The Killigans, and The Tossers, or just anyone who really digs mandolin and fiddle riddled Chicago-Irish punk!
Review by Christopher Toler, THE Blathering Gomme