Tag Archives: The Vandon Arms

The Vandon Arms: No Loyalty Among Thieves

August 1, 2013

The Vandon Arms are a Celtic/Folk/Punk band from Des Moines, Iowa, who have been together since 2006 and while they have previously release a number of EPs, No Loyalty Among Thieves, is the bands first full length (I think).

On the first listen there isn’t a hint of Jack or Diane and John Mellencamp ain’t nowhere to be found. Then again maybe it was Indiana Johnny Cougar was singing about ? Shite’n’Onions is based in Boston and we get a bit fuzzy once we get beyond Worcester (pronounced Wooster) where it’s all kind of flat with a oasis at PaddyRockland, then flat again, then you hit the sea near San Francisco.

What I did hear was straight ahead Celtic-folk-punk with strong influences by Flogging MollyThe Tossers and The Mahones (“Down The Boozer” is covered) . After multiple listens I’m a fan and still not a hint of Pink Houses (for you and me).

The Vandon Arms: Losers and Boozers

While digging through iTunes one day, (I love how iTunes lets me sample every song before committing to a purchase,) avoiding work, linking from one “sounds like,” or “also purchased” to another, I found the six-song EP, “Losers and Boozers”, by The Vandon Arms.

The Vandon Arms is a four piece band from Des Moines, Iowa, comprised of a bass, guitar, drums, and a mandolin. That’s it. No fiddle, pipes, or even a decent whistle to be found. So at first I was dubious. Don’t get me wrong. I love the mandolin, I even own and occasionally torture the missus with one of several every now and again!

But was a single mando enough “folk” for a good folk-punk band? Maybe, but The Vandon Arms aren’t just a good folk-punk band, they are a great one! A minute into track one, and I was reminded that instruments do not make the band. I forgot my initial apprehensions and began really getting into these guys.

The thing I first noticed about TVA was how tight and professional they sounded. These guys came together as solid as any band at the height of their career, and possess a sound somewhere between Dropkick Murphys, The Tossers and Saint Bushmills Choir, with some of the best elements of each.

The EP opener was the traditional foot-stomper, “Muirsheen Durkin”. Executed with the appropriate enthusiasm, track 1 shows off the strength of the mandolin/electric guitar combo and the band’s great use of chorus.

“Losers and Boozers” is an introspective, if unrepentant, self analysis delivered with tempo changes swinging from a last-call, barfly lament to a rowdy, fist-pumping chant that must whip a live audience into a 12-step-dropouts’ frenzy. This one is probably my favorite track off this EP.

Track 3 is the ubiquitous “Whiskey in the Jar,” which sits precariously on the line between a respectfully traditional rendition and a high-speed, punked-out anthem. A very well done version that had me wondering how a voice so relaxed could sound so effortless moving along with a song sung so quickly.

The “Legend of Johnny Grey” relates a folk hero-style tale of rebelling against oppression and shows how TVA use the mandolin as a perfect bridge between the guitar and vocals.

“Brothers in Arms” is a Dropkicks-esque mug-swinger about camaraderie, I assume of the band members, starting with a glass-clinking sing-along that morphs into an upbeat, happy tune that somehow both sounds sincere and avoids sounding sappy.

Closing track “The Journey” is a drums-free, acoustic number that comes across as heartfelt and thoughtful but maintains a really nice pace.

Suffice to say, I was very happy to find this EP on iTunes. If this is a hint at some of the new blood in the Celtic Folk-Punk Genre, than the future is looking good.


Review: Christopher Toler, THE Blathering Gommel

V/A: Paddy Rock Radio Vol.2

Hats off again to John Bowles of Paddy Rock Radio for pulling together another fine comp. I’m always amazed how John will always manage to find 2 or 3 really great bands that I’ve never heard – Meisce, The Sandcarvers and The Vandon Arms being the new standouts to me. Of course there are also lots of bands that are old friends of Shite’n’Onions here – Blaggards. Sharky Doyles, The Killigans and many more. 15 great tacks in all. Check it out, I think you’ll be finding new friends as well and getting reacquainted with some old ones.