Out of the Celtic Folk-Punk hotbed of Berlin, Germany comes The Pokes. And yes, the name was chosen as a tribute to Mr. MacGowan and Company.
Despite this, the band makes it quite clear that they are “not Irish and do not pretend to be.” They make this clear not just through the very frank statements saying just this on their CD liner notes as well as their website and MySpace page, but also through their music; not only omitting any songs about Ireland or any traditional Irish covers on their ‘POKING THE FIRE’ release, but including 2 tracks sung in German! ‘POKING THE FIRE’, the band’s 2nd full-length release, is full of rowdy, rambunctious, sing-alongs, that seems to aim as much for creating its own sound as it does to staying true to its Paddy Punk formula. In doing so, something altogether unusual is the outcome, with few words summing up The Pokes as accurately as the word “fun.”
Instrumentally, the CD plays like a showcase for the accordion with banjo ornamentation and the rest of the band providing an elaborate and very percussive backdrop with sharp, angular voicings from the acoustic guitar, bass, and drums.
Lead vocals are abruptly barked out in emphatic, boisterous metronomic syncopation and kept within a limited scale for a result that seems to hide the German accent; noticeable only now and again throughout the disc’s fourteen tracks, (thirteen, plus an unnamed, uncredited, banjo-only tune that starts after sixteen minutes of silence after last song on the disc ends.) This vocal treatment does create a mood that seems somehow foreign to the familiar melodies; contrasting, yet complimenting. Perhaps, an attempt at some sort of hybrid sound between the Celtic influences and the band’s German heritage was the goal here. Whatever the aim, the result is a sound that is pretty singular and recognizable to The Pokes.
The disc opens with a great track called “The Day I Pass Away,” (with an equally cool video available at the band’s MySpace page,) that sets the pace appropriately, and the disc’s velocity barely drops below this bar.
Or, in short, fun.
Review by Christopher P. Toler, THE Blathering Gommel