Title: Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan
Release Date: December 4, 2020
Director: Julien Temple
Production Company: Infinitum Nihil | Nitrate Film | Wild Atlantic Pictures | BBC Music | Warner Music | Screen Ireland
“People were always calling me a poet, but it’s very annoying to be called a poet when you’re a musician, because it means you’ve wasted your time writing the music.” – Shane MacGowan
This documentary is a straight-forward biography of singer/songwriter Shane MacGowan, most famous for his work with the Celtic punk band The Pogues, in that it covers his life from birth to the present. Straight-forward except that delightfully-weird animation that is used to recreate key moments of MacGowan’s life as well as what seems to be found footage to complement archival footage of MacGowan, his family, and The Pogues. MacGowan credits his childhood years on the family farm in Tipperary, Ireland with moulding is life. He started to drink at the age of 6, but also learned traditional music and lived on a land that still bore the scars of the Great Hunger and the Irish War of Independence.
The movie features original interviews with MacGowan and archival footage where he talks (mumbles, really) about his life and inspirations. There are also scenes of him in conversation with his friends actor Johnny Depp and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Interviews with Macgowan’s parents, his sister Siobhan, and wife Victoria Mary Clarke fill out the story. I would argue the main flaws of this film is that it is overly long and repetitive. If there’s one thing anyone knows about Shane MacGowan is that he drinks a lot, so that point didn’t need to be beaten to death at the expense of, say, learning more about his songwriting process. Still, this is an insightful film about a complex and talented man.
Album: Tell Me I’m Bad
Release Date: February 5, 2021
Label: Exploding in Sound Records
- “Tell Me I’m Bad”
- “She Wants to Go and Party”
Thoughts: The Western Massachusetts trio Editrix combines sweet singsong vocals over shredding guitar. Both the vocals and guitar are provided by Wendy Eisenberg, while Steve Cameron plays bass and Josh Daniel plays drums. The great punk/indie rock melodies support lyrics that are often political but also humorous. I found a great piece online that breaks down each song, something I’d love to see more of: https://www.talkhouse.com/a-guide-to-editrixs-tell-me-im-bad/
Release Date: January 22, 2021
Label: Wharf Cat Records
- “Big Bad Want”
- “Something in the Way”
- “The Way That You Do”
- “All Over My Face”
- “Before I Get Here”
Thoughts: Palberta – the trio of Anina Ivry-Block, Lily Konigsberg, and Nina Ryser from New York City (not western Canada) – make melodic punk music reminiscent of early Sleater-Kinney. I haven’t listened to their earlier work but apparently this album is a transition for the band from pure punk noise to indie pop. Nevertheless, the punk sensibilities remain with sweet harmonies over rattling guitars and drum beats. Most of the album’s 16 tracks clock in at 2 minutes or less. The second half of the album is stronger than the first, but I enjoyed it all.
Album: FREE I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For
Artist: Illuminati Hotties
Release Date: July 17, 2020
- freequent letdown
- reasons 2 live
Singer/songwriter Sarah Tudzin’s pioneering work in “tenderpunk” takes a turn in this brief (12 songs in 24 minutes) but eclectic collection. This is the band’s sophomore effort after Kiss Yr Frenemies and shows a willingness to experiment. The album comes in the wake of their record label’s demise explaining why it is self-released and probably why it is so short. Still, if this is just a place holder until the next “real” album comes out, then we can expect great things.
Release Date: July 5, 2019
Kokoko! is a collective of artists from Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They use instruments fashioned from trash to create sounds for a musical style that blends electronica with dance punk. The synths layered on by their French producer Débruit also gives it an 80s freestyle dance pop sound. Kokoko! makes refreshing music that functions equally well at a dance club or a political protest.
Album: Cut & Stitch
Artist: Petrol Girls
Release Date: May 24, 2019
- Big Mouth
- Weather Warning
I have a soft spot for punk rock that features women’s voices shouting over shredding guitars. The Petrol Girls website bears the tagline “Raging Feminist Post Hardcore from the UK and Austria” which about sums it up. And while the shouted lyrics may not always be easy to understand, I appreciate that they’re saying important things, the emotion behind them is clear.
The Monthly Mixtape for May will take you on a journey!
Sarah Pagé :: Ephemeris Data
Kick it off with some experimental harp music.
The Silver Lake Chorus :: Tabu
Follow up with some tight choral harmonies and hot rhythms.
Black Pumas :: Colors
Then slide into some classic psychedelic soul.
Sass :: Spoiled by Rotten
Nex, some aural time travel to 1991.
Sleater-Kinney :: Hurry on Home
And while you’re in the 90s, pick up Sleater-Kinney and bring them to the present to work with St. Vincent!
Is there any great new music I missed along this journey? Let me know in the comments!
Album: It’s Real
Artist: Ex Hex
Release Date: March 22, 2019
- Tough Enough
- Cosmic Cave
- No Reflection
- Talk to Me
This is the second album (following 2014’s Rips) from the Washington, DC based trio of Mary Timony on guitar, bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris. It’s got a mix of 80s punk and hardrock with touches of power pop and 60s girl groups thrown in. There’s nothing quite original here, but it is a well-crafted collection of raging guitar solos and sweet harmonies.
Artist: The Specials
Release Date: February 1, 2019
Favorite Tracks: B.L.M, The Lunatics, Blam Blam Fever, 10 Commandments, The Life and Times (Of a Man Called Depression)
The Specials, the 2 Tone UK ska revival band from the 1970s and 80s, are back with a new album! I remember back in the 1990s, the band released Today’s Specials, which was good enough but since it was all covers it felt more like UB40’s Labor of Love than anything The Specials had done before. Encore has three covers, but the rest of the album is new material. And just as they did back in the Thatcher Era, The Specials have something to say to our times with tracks focusing on Black Lives Matter, gun violence, and women’s rights (the latter with guest vocals by Saffiyah Khan). The opening track is firmly in the disco genre which made me wonder what I was in store for, but the rest of the album falls into the more expected ska/reggae/punk sounds. I’d say overall, that the album is hit and miss, but tracks like “B.L.M” and “10 Commandments” make the whole thing feel more relevant than one would expect from a 40-year-old band. The deluxe version of the album features live versions of The Specials’ classic tunes.
Album: Cost of Living
Artist: Downtown Boys
Release Date: August 11, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “A Wall,” “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas), “Lips that Bite” and “Clara Rancia.”
Thoughts: The Providence-based, bilingual punk band is back with an energetic new album filled with hard riffs and pointed lyrics. I particularly like it when the horns kick in. This is the music for our fraught political times, filled with anger but leavened with hope.