Thursday, August 25, 2005
If It's Not Scottish, It's Crap!
What if the Sex Pistols had gotten their cues from Scottish folk legend Robbie Burns instead of from the French Situationist movement? Maybe it would sound something a little bit like Scottish punk rockers The Real McKenzies who happen to hail from Vancouver, British Columbia. Yes, that is Canada I'm writing about. Now I was always under the impression that most Scots immigrated to the Southeast of the United States many years ago. It's only natural that I should think so being a descendant of Scottish hell raisers who first came to North Carolina before heading out over the Great Smoky Mountains and landing in what became known as Tennessee. According to The Real McKenzies's frontman, Paul McKenzie, maybe I've got my history wrong. When asked about the oddity of a Canadian group playing Scottish music he replied, "A great many Scots immigrated to Canada. Ya see, the Scottish went north and the Irish went south...as they often do." And there I thought all of the Irish ended up as New York City policemen! Enough with the lame stereotyping jokes; let's agree that Paul McKenzie and this scribe are both correct. After all I have heard of Nova Scotia. After hearing the band's new album 10,000 Shots a person should be able to find some bit of Scottish in them somewhere, be it by blood or by drink.
Now that we've established the blatantly plausible connection between Canada and a Scottish heritage; break out some kilts and bagpipes, but please don't forget to bring the drinks. Scotch anyone? Members of The Real McKenzies include the aforementioned Paul, Matthew McNasty on bagpipes, Sean plays the war drums, bass guitar gets handled by Little Joe, and there are the dueling guitars of Bone and Dirty Kurt. How could you ever go wrong with a swell gang like them? Paul McKenzie was made to dress in a kilt as a young lad to sing traditional Scottish music with his parents and grandparents and it's this that paved the way for his sweet revenge of The Real McKenzies who've been going strong since 1994.
What's really sweet is how freaking good they are. The Pogues proved that mixing a traditional folk music with rock and roll works when it's done right. The Real McKenzies have done much the same thing, but swaggeringly louder. Maybe it comes down to the whole Irish versus Scots debate again. 10,000 Shots features galloping punk rock of what could now be termed the classical Tommy Ramone construct albeit with Scottish brogue accents. There are plenty of drinking songs and real bagpipes; not the phony baloney bagpipe sounding guitar tricks employed by Big Country back in the Eighties. The real treat is a couple of songs where the band provided music to Robbie Burns's poems. Album opening "Smokin' Bowl" is such choice Burns material I had to hit repeat on my player. Consequently it took me several hours and many drafts of ale before I played the disc all the way through.
The Real McKenzies may not provoke the same kind of mystic trance like repetitions it did in me, but there's rowdy good fun for those who want to partake in something Scottish other than Macbeth or "Amazing Grace" done on bagpipes. Their live shows are highly recommended. They play in full Highland regalia with kilts, high stockings, and sporrans. If you know what sporrans are, you definitely need to get this album. So, all ye drunken punks unite and take 10,000 Shots together. You'll feel great while you're listening and you won't even have a hangover the next day. The record is available from those fine purveyors of punk; Fat Wreck Chords. Sporrans? It's the Scottish version of the fanny pack that men wear in front of their kilt.
Posted by Wally Bangs