The Rumjacks are folk rock in every sense of the word.
Much like some of the artists they have travelled alongside in their extensive tours, e.g. The UK Subs and the particularly well-known Dropkick Murphy's, The Rumjacks go with a hard rock philosophy that they admit themselves freely that means they "haven't tried to reinvent anything." This doesn't seem to be a problem though as they do have quite a large following on their tours (15k at their headline at Montelago) and this is their third album, there is a sense that the fan world at large does not see it as one either.
Their music takes some of the sensibilities of Scottish (and particularly Irish Folk) and have given it some legs with a sense of the music of their youth (punk and rock). It is a synthesis that points more towards punk than folk, it gets people on their feet in a frenzy and goes for songs that primarily favour rough-hewn movement over polished folk ballads. It is the other side of folk, the more forceful, class-ridden angst of our forefathers that fought with the iron in their hands. Given my own youth of listening to the likes of Green Day and of course much earlier class-challenging punk I can see the need the properly carry the torch onwards, and it certainly does this.
As mentioned, "Sleepin' Rough" is the third album. In sound it comes with a sinewy, muscle tearing snap that is incredibly listenable in a foot-stomping kind of way. The drifter from the title of the album is represented by a figure across the washed-out cover of the album artwork which has a gloom but also a spirit of rebellion. The portrait is a "rough sleeper" but also not unlike a miner or labourer, it is attempting to channel discontent, change and underclass in one image. This is all well but what of the songs?
We can see there is a lot of energy here. Amongst the general quality scrum on the bar floor throughout the album there are some particular tracks that stand out. "Eight Beers Mcgee" has a thick, burly, rolling chorus that courts a fight in the street at the end of an Irish night with huge proclamations, "tell 'em I went out dancing tell 'em I went to war". The wind instruments call back to Celtish Rock, and the stepped vocals are like an everyday chant or the protests passed around during a drinking song: very good indeed, and a song that sounds like it should go with beer. "Dead to Me" is likewise a fast number, blisteringly fast in comparison to some of the others on the disc. The string-picking, lo-fi rant number gets just under a minute in length and like the flash of a nightmare it comes and goes across the front of your mind before you know what has happened. It is a bit like the hot, fast anger and recriminations in a face-to-face stare with someone who takes offence at you. "Kathleen" is probably my favourite album on the disc. The backing is distinctly ska-like, bringing a smile to the face and in my opinion the closest to a sing-a-long on the album that would fully bring the love in a live setting. Happy go lucky in tone, unapologetically an anthem in delivery and sound, and optimistic in tone it epitomises the good songwriting on the disc and surprising breadth of content available on "Sleepin' Rough".
The album ends on a high note invoking sensory descriptions and some nice rhyming in "pot and kettle" with a nice chorus line repeated often, "lid's a rattlin' belching steam… life ain't nothing but a fevered dream." It has some sustained guitar sonics and feels like the quintessential folk-punk companionship song reinforcing friendship and laughs all round rather than the more negative aspects of destroying society, and breaking social strata. It finishes a quick-paced album by bringing the gear down a little and showing a slight sentimental side to the band which makes the album even more of a treasure one.
You could do much worse than popping this album into your minibus stereo on a warm-up run to the mosh pits of Liverpool. Give it a go, it is as it is is, there is no attempt to hide from the Rumjacks' ability to entertain on this disc and it is another that stands up there as a hootenanny of a disc for 2016
|Van Der Graaf Generator: Do Not Disturb||The O's: Honeycomb|
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