ALBUM REVIEW: The Real McKenzies – Beer And Loathing (Fat Wreck Chords)

If you don’t know what Canadian Celtic punks The Real McKenzies are about by now, 10 studio albums into their career, you probably never will.

Blending driving punk rhythms with traditional melodies, the band haven’t changed a bit since they were formed by Scottish punk poet laureate Paul McKenzie in 1992 – apart from the steady churn of members which have left him as the only constant, that is!

But while other bands have mellowed or lost their edge as they’ve got older, that’s not the case for the McKenzies, whose sound remains the same. They continue to blend guitars with the skirl of the bagpipes, spinning yarns of times long past, remembering heroes and recounting endless adventures and drunken revelries.

Their songs are often rebellious, sometimes poignant and frequently anthemic, and your record collection is a better place with The Real McKenzies in it.

After instrumental opener A Widow’s Watch we’re down to business with the gentle, lilting Overtoun Bridge, an ode to a structure in Dumbarton, Scotland, known as ‘the dog suicide bridge, due to the number of canines which have met their end there, possibly for supernatural reasons

More upbeat is Big Foot Steps, a proper McKenzies full-kilter banger of a tune, as is title track Beer & Loathing, with both showing the power the band are capable if.

Cock Up Your Beaver might sound like it’s going to be laced with double intendres, but it’s their take on a 1792 Rabbie Burns poem, which, perhaps improbably, refers to a gentleman’s hat made of said rodent!

Nary Do Gooder, about the joys of being a committed drinker, and Death Of The Winnipeg Scene, lamenting the demise of punk rock in the Canadian city, keep things speeding along.

Paul McKenzie is The Real McKenzies’ only constant member. Pic: Gary Welford.

36 Barrels is about a failed assassination attempt of King James I, while Whose Child Is This kicks off with a healthy helping of bagpipes, and The Ballad of Cpl Hornburg is a homage to a Canadian soldier who died serving his country in Afghanistan.

The Cremation Of Sam McGee, a poem most famously recited by Johnny Cash, is probably my favourite song on this album, anthemic and full of swaggering guitars, while things are rounded off by another bagpipe-fuelled instrumental, the breakneck A Seafarer’s Return.

In other words, it’s very much business as usual for The Real McKenzies, and in these troubled times we should be most thankful for that. 8/10.

Gary Welford owner