Pull me a Guinness, boys and make sure to put a shamrock in the foam for kitsch value – the band from the Big Smoke are at it again. Listen up as Leeson O’Keefe marches his ragged and ready troops into sure-fire victory. Who better to lead them I ask, than one who, as John noted in a previous review, lived near Rotten, studied under Shane and is blessed with God’s gift to English accents, the Cockney.
The 2001 Demo opens with a grand, bouncing sing-along called “Everyday is St. Patrick’s Day” which reels around with the speed and tempo of Leeson’s boyhood heroes of ’77. It’s held together by the familiar Neck sound that, to me, is instantly recognizable from the rest of the crop, and is becoming their trademark. I particularly like the trad. ‘breakdown’ in the middle. That’s “breakdown” in the spirit of old school hardcore (picture something Springa might’ve wrote if 1) He was Irish 2) He ever got shitty drunk and 3) He could play the whistle or fiddle). I can see it now, step-dancing in the circle pit because this one’s a pit-jig wonder. The plot of the tune seems to relate a tale of Leeson’s pal, Paddy Johnny in the drunk tank. While singing tunes of Ireland at a very high volume, our hero is reprimanded by the guard thusly: “Oi, Paddy – Shut yer gob! It ain’t St. Patrick’s day!” His brilliant, two fingers in-the-air reply names the tune. What a corker.
The cover of “Star of the County Down” is very well done, and, in parts, guitar heavy, heavy, heavy. If old Bon Scott era AC/DC ever did the Pogues, I’d imagine it would come out like this.
Things spill over into Luke Kelly ballad-style on “The Night That The Shamrock Was Drowned.” It tells of the bond between songs from the old country and the feelings we all get when hearing them, (even if it’s “Danny Boy” done by an old Bollocks) it still has that power. It’s done so incredibly well that once you have listened to it, and to the varying styles of the first three songs alone, you’ll see why I put these guys right behind Shane and the Popes as the best in the business today.
The tone remains serious for “Diaspora”, a semi-rocker about the great Irish Diaspora, which reminds me slightly of the boys from my own neck of the woods, the Tossers, which is a good thing.
Things pick right back up for “Blue Sky Over Nenagh” that is sure to get your new Irish Spring Aran sweater mighty stained if you’re anywhere near the stage when it fires up, and you’ll be hard pressed to get that bastard clean as a whistle ever again.
“I Turn my Face to the Four Winds” might well be my favorite cut on the album, and to me, has almost a country-ish backbone to it all. It’s a tale of redemption and loss. Gunfighter O’Keefe squints his eyes in the sun, reflects, and wails like a killer who’s tired of killing…or is he a lover spurned, and who’s situation is of his own doing? “I turn my face to the four winds/once again I stand alone/crucified for my sins/the cross I carry is my own.” Nice touch, that.….very nice. If Marty Robbins or Hank Williams were from Dublin, either would’ve been proud to pen this one.
“Down Where the River Bends” ends the demo like popping pills after a night on the booze – gets the heart back pumping top speed.
All in all, although the 2001 Demo might just be a demo, it’s nothing short of breathtaking. Get in line, boys, cause my beer’s almost gone and Neck are almost on. Shout at the top of your lungs “I’m plastic and I’m proud!” and don’t take your eyes of the band – that grand Goddamn band.
By Sean Holland