HAVE ANOTHER: Thank you, sirs and ladies!
This time of year always brings about a bunch of talk about the Irish, but we’ve really been inundated of late, no? From this whole sister-city-with-Bushmills contest to Jonathan Papelbon dancing a jig with the Dropkick Murphys every time you turn on the television to that silly story about the owner of Foley’s refusing to allow “Danny Boy” to be played (seriously, how did that last so long in the national news cycle?), we can’t seem to escape the Irish and their drinking, singing ways lately. Some ethnicities might oppose a reputation as a drinking, carousing, brawling bunch. Not so the Irish.
|One Too Many Again | Released by the Pubcrawlers | at RFK Stadium, Washington DC | with the Street Dogs + the Tossers + Great Big Sea + more | March 15 | at the River House Irish Pub, in Kennebunk | March 17|
Just check the new release from the Pubcrawlers, One Too Many Again, yet another delicious blend (that’s a Jameson reference, people) of traditional bagpipe, accordion, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and tin whistle paired with a ferocious kick drum, thrumming bass, growling electric guitar, and a propensity to play at 150 bpm. You’ve got trainwrecks, shipwrecks, and plain old drunks all over the place, the ’crawlers mixing the morbid with the mundane while never having anything less than a blast.
The opening medley alone is densely packed with historical anecdote. A mash-up of “Itchy Fingers” and “Wreck of the Old ’97” with a delicately picked electric guitar segue, the opening bagpipes stand like a bulwark against digital music’s progress before being shoved aside by heavily distorted guitar chords. Though it’s a traditional Irish reel, it can’t help but recall the Rolling Stones outtakes disc, Itchy Fingers, with those two versions of “Cocksucker Blues,” and the Pubcrawlers do seem to embrace the fuck-all tone that infuses those studio sessions from the late ’60s. Except they have this great feel for nostalgia, evident from the outset on “Wreck,” a train-tragedy tune from the early 20th century. Not only is that tune one of the benchmarks of American music (the first million-selling record; the subject of the first great copyright battle), and the inspiration for the Old 97s (one of the first great alt-country bands to bring Americana back to the mainstream), but it’s such a phenomenal ode to working-class ethic: “When the whistle turned into a scream/Well I found him in the wreck with his hand on the throttle.”
Then they turn the same trick with a pair of originals, marrying “The Loss of the Americus” to “The Friel Jig.” This time it’s a boat that’s gone down, the Americus being a crab boat that sailed out of Anacortes, Washington, on Valentine’s Day 1983, only to be found keel-up in the Bering Sea. Here, the banjo paired with nothing but a kick drum is haunting as hell in the bridge, and the “Friel” finish manages to be jaunty enough to lift your spirits.
This constant pairing of the traditional and the contemporary, the band’s ability to somehow make the ancient seem fresh and immediate, make the album way deeper than just a bunch of rollicking pub tunes.