The Rumjacks – Sound as a Pound (Mustard Finnegan’s, 2009)
Sydney’s Rumjacks are just about to release their first full-length album, so I’d better pull my finger out and review this one, released at the tail end of 2009. Opening with the sublime instrumental ‘All the Old Winejacks’, the interplay between whistle and accordion takes me back to the mid-1980s when I first heard the Pogues. The only thing missing is the blood-curdling scream of a young Shane MacGowan.
On other Rumjacks tracks, the vocals, the lyrics and the guitars set them apart from the Pogues and from the whole Celt-punk crew. ‘Shadrach Hannigan’ is a tale of a restless rattler jumper, featuring excellent vocal exchanges between regular vocalist Frankie McLaughlin and accordionist Will Swan. The band absolutely tears it up on this song, and the intensity remains throughout.
Frankie takes control for the remaining four songs on this release, with Swan’s accordion shining as always. Like on the wonderful Hung, Drawn and Portered, the Rumjacks concoct a heady brew of punk rock with lashings of traditional Irish and Scottish influences. The five original tracks are all of excellent quality. ‘Kirkintilloch’ and ‘Katoomba’ are raucous drinking songs that are played at blinding speed, while the slower ‘My Time Again’ – wistful, thoughtful and regretful – is one of the band’s best songs yet. The traditional song ‘Marie’s Wedding’ closes the EP, and it’s a rollicking knees-up with massed back-up vocals that really works.
On this release as well as on the previous one, for me the key feature of the Rumjacks’ sound is Will Swan’s accordion. Now that Swan has left the band, it will be interesting to see how the band progresses. Early indications are that the Rumjacks are going for a harder-edged sound. Check out the new tracks from The Gangs of New Holland on MySpace, and watch out for my review in about a year’s time!