21st Century Reviews

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

05 October 2009

The Rumjacks – Hung, Drawn and Portered (The Rumjacks/Mustard Finnegan’s Good Times Rock’n’Roll Emporium, 2009)

Does this story sound familiar? A band is formed in Sydney, inspired by the Pogues, by traditional Irish and Scottish music, and by lots of noisy electric stuff as well. The singer was born in Glasgow. Their frantic, drunken gigs are legendary, building up a diverse following of Newtown punks, Blue Mountains folkies, expat Scots and Irish and assorted lefty weirdos. The music is fast, loud and accordion-driven, with ruggedly tuneful vocals over the top. That’s where the similarities between Roaring Jack and the Rumjacks end. A quick listen to Hung, Drawn and Portered, and the Rumjacks assert themselves as a totally different beast.

‘The Plantin’ O’Kitty Randall’ crashes into life with a thumping two-step and Will Swan’s huge accordion sound. You might remember Will from Sydney band the Laundrymen and Melbourne’s Catgut Mary. His accordion fuels the Rumjacks, helping to create a swaggering, lurching pirate punk sound. He’s pretty handy with a tin whistle as well.

Steve Pell, no longer with the band, supplies the concussive percussion on this EP, while Johnny McKelvey handles both guitar and bass. (Since this EP was recorded, Gabe Whitbourne has joined the Rumjacks as guitarist, and Anthony Matters has joined as drummer.) Meanwhile, lead vocalist Frankie McLaughlin spits out a bitter tale of a lassie who discovers that she can make good money loving other men. The gruff vocals suit the mood of the song perfectly. Frankie’s not so cranky on the next track, ‘The Bold Rumjacker’. He shows he really can sing. This one’s more in the style of the Scottish reggae that Roaring Jack attempted on ‘The Ball of Yarn’ some twenty years ago. Frankie admits to being ‘Scottish born and Australian bred / I’m strong in the arm and soft in the head’, declaring he’s off to Van Diemen’s Land in search of romance. His idea of a romantic dinner is ‘Two fish suppers and a paraffin lamp’. This is a great catchy tune that had me skanking and singing along in no time.

Will Swan takes over the vocal duties for the next two tracks. What a luxury for a band to have two competent vocalists. To these ears, many of today’s Celtic punk bands don’t even have one! Will contributes the rollicking ‘Paddy Goes to Babylon’ and the punky sea shanty ‘Down with the Ship’. The defiant song heaps scorn on a scene full of ‘junkies and liars’: ‘There’s more romance in a minister’s pants / Than there is in this scene and its sad pissants’.

The EP concludes with the Rumjacks’ take on traditional Irish favourite, ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’. This version, transplanting the ‘Belle of Belfast city’ to Sydney, rips along at a cracking pace. It’s a great way to finish proceedings. Hung, Drawn and Portered certainly leaves the listener desperate to hear more. Recorded in only three days, it shows that we can expect big things from this Sydney combo.

You can get this one through Pug Music, or as mp3s via iTunes.

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