May 26, 2024

The Eskies – “AND DON’T SPARE THE HORSES” – a riotous Brechtian reincarnation of The Pogues

1st December 2017

With the sparse guitar tone favoured by Marc Ribot on some of Tom Waits’ sparkiest tunes (circa Swordfishtrombones), a street-corner sort of a brass band, a male chorus worthy of Greek theatre and a stash of swinging folk songs, this is a bundle of fun.

Carrying the spirit of bands like The Keston Cobblers Society, Les Negresses Vertes, Bellowhead and Gogol Bordello, this is irrepressibly bouncy. On this, their second album, songs are often sung in character as if an Irish cabaret turn. Full of bravado, piss and vinegar, the protagonist is usually egged on by the chorus. Except when he isn’t. There are more circumspect, woeful songs. After all, the characters have been here before and they know history moves in circles; the fall will follow the rise. Weltschmerz is grimed into the seams of the songs alongside hollow triumphalism.

Dublin Gypsy punks, The Eskies have the fire that I heard in The Pogues and the energy is amazing, literally bouncing on the drum all the way through and dragging in klezmer music, blues and gypsy rags on the way. It just doesn’t let up and the choruses are almost all catchy and sometimes the songs become full-on anthems. The powerful voice of Ian Birmingham carries you into the life of a Napoleonic soldier or some other man, whose reactions to things won’t seem so far from your own. There is a Brechtian everyman tone to things. Speaking of tone, it’s Ian’s guitar that you’ll be admiring too.

‘Shame’ is awesomely likely to stick in your ears for days – go on, Youtube it. “In a world that runs on ointment, there are those that deal in flies”. ‘I’d Rather Be Lonely’ is as self-persuading as you’d imagine. ‘Hail Hail’ is far better than a tale about a Selkie should be, full of sea and sadness and the weight of inevitability (conveyed by the whistling echoey Western flavours of Ennio Morricone!). It isn’t long before the title track ends the set in an all-to-brief elegiac chorus.

This is a great discovery for me and I’m delighted this is their second album – because that means there is one I haven’t heard yet. It won’t be long though…..

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