Ah, ‘tis good to know that there are still Irish punk bands around—or at least American groups that have tried valiantly to pick up where Shane MacGowan left off with the legends the Pogues. The Dropkick Murphys, who were recently part of the Vans Warped Tour before heading out in support of the Sex Pistols, have had great success with a mix of hard rock and beer drinking numbers that makes everyone nearby have a bit of Irish green in their blood. But before that band, and even before Flogging Molly from Los Angeles, were the Tossers from Chicago. Led by Tony Duggins, the band has been around for a decade now. This latest release, the band’s fourth, is just as solid as Communication & Conviction and Long Dim Road.
Beginning with the lovable and lush instrumental opening of “With the North Wind/Here We Go Again”, the Tossers show that they have the wares to deliver the goods. Whether it’s Dan Shaw’s mandolin or Aaron Duggins’s tin whistle, the start shows where their heart truly lies outside the “windy city”. But two minutes in, all hell breaks loose and the listener is spilling beer all over himself, carousing with buddies, and dancing up a storm. Imagine the Pogues circa “Fiesta” or “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn”. Duggins starts off with “Oh and here we go again”, and he more than hits the musical nail on the head. He drives it home! The intensity picks up later on during the closing moments and is a toe-tapper or knee-knocker. “The Ballad of the Thoughtful Rover” is a tad slower but the melody is instantly infectious. “Well everyone has fear and pain and most folks fear the dole / But I’d rather be lying at home beside the true love that I know and the friends I love the most”, he sings as a symphony of acoustic instruments keep the tune soaring.
“Nantucket Girls Song” isn’t the dirty limerick one might assume; it just offers up more of the same joy and love of Celtic punk. “When I got a job to do the job gets fucking done”, Duggins sings as brother Aaron goes off on the tin whistle. The Tossers aren’t as frantic as the Dropkick Murphys when it comes to a bruising punk sound, but here it actually works better for them. “Come Dancing” (not to be confused with the Kinks’ track) is a manic reel that stops and starts in terms of its tempo and flow. Shaw’s mandolin is the star here while Mike Pawula does a strong job on guitar. “Caoin (Lament)” is a slower Celtic pop-like ballad that recalls the Pogues doing “Lorelei”. “The Squall” gets to the heart of September 11th and the aftermath, pulling no punches about the crisis and the consequences. It’s possibly the only song regarding the tragedy that you can still kick up dust for.
“Chicago” is a lengthy tune that is basically two separate tunes in one—a quiet ballad before the guitars and drums up the punk ante. The drinking quotient is apparent on the everlasting binge of “Monday Morning”, a catchy Celtic ditty that is one of the highlights, which, given the strength of this album, is saying a hell of a lot! (Nevermind the concluding belch!) “Time to Go” and “First League Out from Land” are fast dancers that keeps the momentum going. One noticeable quality to the album is how the Tossers are more than able to keep your attention for nearly seventy minutes, something a lot of bands can’t say for half of that time. The title track is a sparse ballad that Tony Duggins sings alone, like the early work of the Clancy Brothers.
The last few tunes offer up more of the same joyful toe-tapping songs, especially on “Faraway”, which brings to mind “Sunny Side Of The Street” as Duggins asks to hear the bow going across the string all night long. The Gaelic “Ni Thabharfaidh Siad Pingin Duit” is a great reel (or jig) that shows off Becca Manthe on fiddle. Overall, this album is one of the best you’ll find this year. Any artist, any place and certainly any bloody genre!
// Notes from the Road
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