Rightso…2 things I have to say before I even start trying to review this album, and these are the first 2 things that struck me within 30 seconds of getting the package out of the mailbox, opened on the kitchen bench and chucking the CD on the stereo…
1) Reading through the song titles on the back of the cover, as sure as Shane MacGowan is the godfather of our beloved paddy punk, “We’re all Wicked Liquored Up at the Upscale Downtown Irish Pub” is the coolest name for a song I have ever heard
2) They have a piano in their line-up. This is rather unique for this style of music and as soon as the first notes hit my ears I was whisked away to a magical, faraway place in my early childhood (about ages 3-7) because at this time my parents exposed me to exclusively classical music (which I was not fond of) AND the following 4 albums (all of which I was very fond of): Billy Joel – The Stranger, Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Steeleye Span – some collection, who knows what and 5 Hand Reel – For A’ That. And bizarrely enough, The Larkin Brigade sound like a mix of all 4 of those artists. Go figure???
OK – sorry about that, but I felt compelled to share…now back to the topic at hand given that this is an album review, not a “My Mum didn’t hug me enough” psychiatry session for me.
Paddy Keys for Mayor is the first album release for The Larkin Brigade – a 4-piece from Boston playing fast-paced Celtic-infused music, with a punk-ish feel. Drums, bass, violin and piano make for a very unique sound that needs to be heard to be properly appreciated. The album is well upbeat, kicking you out of your chair and cocking your ears to catch the next funky piano lick, or violin trill over the top of a driving rhythm section. I reckon these guys would do one solid live show that couldn’t leave you with anything but a big smile on your face.
The first track, “Tim Phoolan and the Worst Campaign for City Council Ever” is a great intro to the album. It hits you straight away with what The Larkin Brigade are all about – cymbal-heavy percussion, beefy bass, violin-melody with a crazy piano running all over the place. Pat’s vocals are thick-sounding, yet light-hearted and engaging.
“Banana Republic” and “Dot Day” follow this up nicely with a similar feel to Tim Phoolan. Some sweet work on the harmonica in Banana adds a nice touch. Dot has a catchy melody and great toe-tapping rhythm – very clever little song.
“Planxty John L.” incorporates some great timing changes that deliver a punch as good as the Irish-American boxer who is the subject of the song.
“This is a Rebel Cry” and “Mission Thrill” are a couple of fun tracks complete with drinking and ninja turtle references. The latter has a great bridge section that could have come from traditional session in any decent Irish pub the world over.
“Sean South From Garryowen” shares the same tune as Roddy McCorley and cranks up the temperature with some wicked bagpipes giving you that extra shot of adrenaline only a good ol’ rebel song can deliver.
“The Tinker” has some great changes of tempo infused with a clever violin riff and finishes with a soaring fiddle solo. Following this is a sweet little instrumental: “Tabhair Dom Do Lamh” and then we’re transported straight into a noisy piano bar for a bit of good ol’ rag time jamming.
“We’re All Wicked Liquored Up at the Upscale Downtown Irish Pub” as I already noted could never go wrong for me and it is a great song turning the piano bar into an Irish pub full of drunken Powers-infused punters wrecking the joint.
The album closes out with “The Banshee Went to Outer Space”, another solid track with some crazy fast lyrics, punk-beats and vocals, a bit of electronic madness chucked in for good measure and all with the goods on the rhythm and pounding piano this album delivers in spades.
So this album really gives you something unique. Not for the die-hard punk perhaps, but to anyone who likes their music with a cheeky sense of humour that isn’t taking itself too seriously, who can handle their rhythm loud and proud and void of guitar, who can dig a violin and piano being used as assault rifles on the ears, and can take their whiskey straight or in a tall glass of coke – this comes with an A-grade recommendation from this reviewer. Slainte!
Review – Alex Dean