I’ve been a big fan of Blood or Whiskey since the release of their classic self-titled CD back in ’96 ( or ’97,) so when it was announced last year that Barney Murray – vocalist and main songwriter – was leaving the band due to ill health, I was disappointed and felt the game was up for a great band. The other original members: Dugs (guitar and now vox) and Chris O’Mara (drums) thought otherwise. Too much blood, sweat and tears had been invested over the previous 6 years to just give it up now. A new line up was recruited with Dugs now on vocals and the band have been working their collective bollox off since – touring Europe, the USA, crashing vans, going to jail and having Topper from the Clash sitting in on the drums one infamous night.
The 5 track promo was put out for the recent US tour with the Dropkick Murphys and basically it’s a one-take in the rehearsal studio deal so it wouldn’t be very fair to nit-pick against the two proper studio releases. So how do the new band sound you ask? Well, the familiar – banjo – tin whistle – accordion – sound is still there making the trade mark Blood or Whiskey racket but the band are playing much harder then before. It’s as if though they have changed from being a traditional band playing punk to a punk band playing trad. Dugs tries hard on vocals to pull of the Barney Murray voice but sounds too strained. Hopefully the vocal chords improve when they get to the recording studio proper.
Rich Lard, the main mover and shaker behind “Punk Shit Volume 1” is an Irish punk living in Birmingham, England whose idea for this 40 track compilation was essentially to give exposure to Punk bands on both the Irish and Birmingham scenes. Like most compilations it’s a mixed bag of bands, some good (Nerdlinger, Dogshit Sandwich, Greenland Whalefishers, The Wernt, Bug Central), some bad and some brilliant (Blood or Whiskey, Runnin’ Riot, The Steam Pig) and some just plain average, with a wide range of punk style from the Pogues/Traditional inspired Blood or Whiskey and Greenland Whalefishers to Street Punk, Metallic Hardcore, Oi, Crust, Ska and Acapella (Wat Tyler’s, “Babylon’s Burning”).
I suppose the true test of a good compilation is if it wets the appetite to further check out some of the bands on it and I’ll be certainly checking out more from the Steam Pig, Nerdlinger and a few more.
This CD single is an Ireland only release teaser from Blood or Whiskey’s new full length CD ‘No Time To Explain’ (reviewed above). The ‘A Side’ tracks are from the CD, ‘Never Be Me’ a fast temp catchy as hell Pogues/Undertones hybrid, which won’t scare the old dears who listen to ‘The Larry Grogan Show’ (is he still alive?) and ‘Sober Again’, a slow ‘bhoys’ on the way home from the pub sing-along. The ‘B Side’ has two previously unreleased songs ‘Oh Oh’ an anti-love song – fast and spiteful and ‘Kelly of Killann’ the old Clancy standard given the ‘Blood or Whiskey’ kick up the arse – worth buying just for this.
I can’t quite remember how I discovered ‘Blood or Whiskey’ but some how I came across their self titled debut CD (on ‘Sounds Records’ later re-recorded on ‘Rejected Records’) three or so years ago and it’s raw traditional Irish based punk would have put it straight to near the top of my list of favorite CD’s of all time if I was into keeping lists. So with bated breath I awaited the new CD. Could the band really improve on the classic first CD? And in short yes. The band still play fast hard edged ‘Trad Punk’ with Barney Murray still sounding like the bastard son of Ronnie Drew and Shane MacGowan (perish that image – yuch). Musically they have slightly expanded their sound (not a bad thing) adding in the catchy as hell Undertone’s style choruses, a touch of ‘The Clash’ and do I hear the ‘cut your bullshit attitude’ of early ‘The Radiators (From Space)’? So if you haven’t heard Blood or Whiskey before and are willing to take a chance on some thing special then you won’t go wrong here. Probably the only CD that can give ‘Flogging Molly’s’ ‘Swagger’ a run for its money. I’d almost say it’s the best thing to come out of Leixlip, Co. Kildare since Arthur Guinness brewed that very first pint of Guinness in 1756. My favorite songs so far, though this will change with repeated listening are:
‘Your Majesty’, fast trad punk about Bob Geldof and his OBE (Order of the British Empire) – an award ‘Sir’ Bob received from Queen Betty II herself and what Barney and the lads think he should have told her to do with it. ‘Frank’, another fast one that sound like it’s written about someone I know. ‘Rudy’ with it’s ska feel and the punky ‘Paranoid State’ and ‘Breaking Through’