Tales From The Wasteland
Released: Oct 31 2011
Genre: Folk Punk
Label: Bomber Music
By: Chris Fishlock
You don’t see too many new folk punk bands these days, while bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys from the US remain popular, it’s been a while since a UK folk punk band has made an impact. The Pogues are often touring but not recording, and it’s good and fresh to hear a new folk punk band from the UK, especially one this brilliant. Hailing from Reading, Smokey Bastard return after their debut album last year with the ambitious Tales from the Wasteland released through Bomber Music.
Musically, ‘Tales from the Wasteland’ is a very good album – with a wide use of instrumentation including the mandolin, banjo, accordion and tin whistle; all played by a mixture of the seven musicians that form the band. All these instruments with an added brilliant raspy vocal performance and fast punk songs create a perfect Irish-tinged sound and rowdy atmosphere for the album.
The album opens with ‘Wasteland’, starting off with a slow pounding entrance, building up until they jump into a much faster tempo reminding of how some of Flogging Molly’s popular songs kick off -you can only imagine what the atmosphere at their gigs must be like. ‘Wasteland’ has just about everything you want from a folk punk track, enough to get you dancing and shouting along to an infectious chorus with a great mix of instruments. Another highlight track is the 5 minute epic ‘Mongrel’ with a powerful banjo line, ska influenced guitar and double vocal track to give this track a loud powerful sound. ‘Dear Mol’ is easily comparable to The Pogues’ classic ‘Fairytale of New York’ and Dropkick Murphys’ ‘The Dirty Glass’ with their mix of male and female sung verses and lyrical themes.
Unlike a lot of albums these days, not too many songs on Tales from the Wasteland sound too similar, from the folk punk anthems such as ‘Wasteland’ and ‘Yuppie Dracula’ to the fast instrumental ‘Mong Some Hoof’, the band even manage to put in a few acapella’s such as the wonderful ‘My Son John’ (which is perhaps there to calm the listener down between the powerful ‘Mongrel’ and hectic ‘Mong Some Hoof’). Standout track ‘Aspirations, I Have Some’ sounds like a slightly different style – with the first half of the track being based on just guitar, bass, drums and vocals before the breakdown which successfully brings in banjo and accordion to finish a brilliant song.
Overall the record has an impressive flow that tells us that this works well as a complete album, not just as a collection of good tracks – which is something lacking in recent albums from their contemporaries Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys. You can tell that plenty of thought has been put into the structure and tracklisting of the album. It is a shame that the album flow is somewhat ruined, as instead of selecting strong closing track to go close in similar fashion to the impressive opening song, they chose to place a cover of ‘Mamma Mia’ by ABBA. The rendition is rather gimmicky, and although it is entertaining it does ruin the integrity of an otherwise very well put together album.
Smokey Bastard, with this record, have proved that there is life in the folk punk genre – despite being the first band of the genre in a while to come out with a record this brilliant. ‘Tales from the Wasteland’ is full of infectious and well written tunes that will have you wanting to come back for more; this is without doubt an album that deserves multiple listens.
Smokey Bastard – Yuppie Dracula