21st Century Reviews

You liked Roaring Jack, you might like some of the recent releases reviewed here!

17 January 2008

Waiting For Guinness - Friend Or Foe (Vitamin, 2007)

Put the music of the 20th century in a blender, and this is what you might get. You'd be forgiven for taking the band name and concluding that we have another bunch of Pogues clones here, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sure there are raging accordions and there are some pretty sharp hats and suits, but that's where the comparison ends. (Unless we're talking about the post-Shane Pogues, which had an extraordinarily eclectic and not-very-Irish sound!)

This Sydney septet (that's right, seven at last count) have been around for over ten years and recently released their third album, Friend Or Foe. An insane blast of horns launches 'Cadaver Swing', and those horns are soon joined by exotic stringed instruments and menacing vocals. Quite a few tracks show a distinct Mexican and Latin American influence, most notably the beautiful instrumental 'Wedding March'. One of the most touching and memorable tunes I've heard in a while.

For fans of Roaring Jack and Weddings Parties Anything, special recommendation goes to 'Thank God For Maconochie'. If you've read Robert Hughes's The Fatal Shore and other tales of Australia's brutal convict days, you'll be familiar with characters like Alexander Maconochie, the kindly (well, relatively speaking!) commandant on Norfolk Island, and poor Charles Anderson, the brain-damaged convict chained to a rock on Goat Island. It's great to hear the lives of these characters resurrected in song, and here's a song that deserves to be added to folk music's convict songbook along with 'Sons of Liberty', 'A Tale They Won't Believe' and so many great ballads of uncertain origin.

There's a lot here for anybody with an open mind about their music. At various moments on this album, I am reminded of Tom Waits, Les Negresses Vertes, The Jackson Code, Monsieur Camembert, Los Lobos and many others, but only for a second. Then Waiting For Guinness moves on, going down a completely different path. Hope you're up for a pretty wild ride.


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