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Filthy Thieving Bastards
A Melody Of Retreads And Broken Quills
BYO Records

This review has been a long time coming. You see, my wife loves The Pogues. Therefore, she nicked my disc out from under me. Well luckily, her love for Face To Face has allowed me to secretly replace A Melody Of Retreads in her player with Folgerís Crystals. Letís see if she notices.

ĎTis not Dylanís "Death Is Not The End" but another Johnny Bonnel attempt to sober up Shane MacGowan. Itís a warm and lively country tinged number to start things out nicely. The humor of "Counterfeit Cassius Clay" almost makes you miss the smart wordplay. The eighties Plimsouls chorus and slithering guitar work weave with gritty Americana. Former Camper Van Monks of Doom guitarist Greg Lisher again surpasses anything Cracker has squeezed out. Surely, "Mountain Tomb" marks the point that the Bastards will secure a spot on Austin City Limits. Spry fiddling from Darius Koski floats sweetly above the jangle guitar. The picnic vocal harmonies are sleep-inducing folk. "Gene And Jean" gives the inside story of two American kids doing the best they can. The warbling organ is particularly pleasing. Musically unobtrusive, it seems to be comfortable in any era. It leaves room for the journey to unfold on a personal level. Bonnel exudes a natural compassion while he skillfully packs in stunning gems like; A pillsy gleam wears Jean while seeking to be pierced like a sad clone. The whisky drinker, "Wasting Away" introduces fifties style standup bass and the rare Slim Pickens reference. (Bonus points) "Between The Lines" has the skiffle flavor of early Beatles with more worthwhile lyrics. You can imagine Paul and John bopping along to it despite the lack of absurdities. A dark turn comes with "Afterthought." The mixture of electrified folk with bouncing staccato Irish rhythms is thrilling. Bonnel skips threateningly through the song like a funny-dressed gangster in "Warriors." The menacing Chris Rea surfabilly guitar meets Jerry Jeff Walker songwriting. In "Bitter Old Son" the old man gets his harsh legacy thrown back in his face. Itís delivered in a back porch Dillards bluegrass that Pops is sure to understand. Max Butler provides a killer mandolin to sweeten the pill.

Though it most certainly takes place by the Bay, both subject and style of "Trollyís Sum" taste modern English. (No not the Ď80ís wavers) The last folk remnant is Koskiís accordion. All else is steeped in inner city Jam story telling. The background ends in a round to nail down the message. Back to the Emerald Isle and The Pogues, "Waltzing In My Spew" is full of belly laughs as an empty belly can offer. Step dancers will have to keep an eye on the floor. Pure seventies country comes home to, "Wait By The Door." Koski turns a clever phrase when he sees The peephole by the door, the love behind it may not let him in. Later The people at the doorÖtheyíre there to greet me when its time to carry on. Seems C.S. Lewis wasnít the only one who took comfort at the alehouse. "Grave Meí seems to mix Colorblind James Experience with rockabilly breaks and Adam Ant snotty backing vocals. Somehow the mysterious blend works. Speedy tandem vocals grace "The Killing Kind," adding yet another texture to the project. "Aberfan" turns a grandfatherís Welsh poem into an appropriately Levelers/New Model Army sounding tribute. Gorgeous and tear-jerking, Koskiís fiddle mourns children lost in a landslide. Not to end on such a dour note, "An Otherwise Sunny Day" stomps its cowboy boot to Butlerís bright pedal steel. Sure itís about drinking and losing your wife, but in a celebratory way.

Retreads shows the Bastards defining their style with less obvious mimicry than Our Fathers Sent Us. And while I enjoy it slightly less than that previous release, the superb quality of songwriting is on the level with that of Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Van Morrison. Koski and Bonnel are extremely talented and prolific. They are rapidly compiling a body of work will drive you to think.

On a scale of poetic justices: One being Dropkick Murphys borrowing from them, and ten being surpassing their idols, A Melody Of Retreads And Broken Quills rates 7.5 - tricking my wife into Irish two-step-dancing.

ó Ewan Wadharmi

 Track Listing:

  1. Death Is Not The End
  2. Counterfeit Cassius Clay
  3. Mountain Tomb
  4. Gene And Jean
  5. Wasting Away
  6. Between The Lines
  7. Afterthoughts
  8. Bitter Old Son
  9. Trolly's Sum
  10. Waltzing In My Spew
  11. Wait By The Door
  12. Grave Me
  13. The Killing Kind
  14. Aberfan
  15. An Otherwise Sunny Day

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