Monday, 4 September 2017

Album Review: As The Tide Turns by Matilda's Scoundrels (by Emma Prew)

Matilda's Scoundrels are a six-piece folk punk band hailing from the sunny seaside town of Hastings, in the south east of England. They've been on my radar since their 2015 split with The Barracks and I've seen them live a couple of times too. As a lively and chaotic band when performing live, I was super keen to hear how this conveyed onto their first full-length release. The Tide Turns is Matilda's Scoundrels' debut album and it will be released on TNSrecords on 8th of September – this Friday. Obviously, I jumped at the chance to listen and review it early.

As The Tide Turns opens with a track called Burn It To The Ground. This is a fast and furious, anger-fuelled track that aims to call to arms all those that hear it. The vocals are a bit rough around the edges – in a good way – and the guitars are pretty heavy with the underlying accordion and mandolin keeping that element of folk. There is a contrastingly gentle middle section of the song which, of course, leads into one last hard-hitting chorus. ‘Even though it's wet as hell, we'll light ya. Burn it to the ground.’ Take It To The Streets is next up and this song begins fairly quietly compared to how Burn It To The Ground finished. It has more of a folky start which is perhaps more typical of their previous releases – and if there was one song that ought to be selected as lead ‘single’, it’s probably this one. There is a great little tinkly melody in this song and, of course, the chorus remains gruff as ever. There are more riotous themes to be had with Take It To The Streets with lyrics such as ‘Let's kick down the door’ and the optimistic, and my favourite, ‘Together we fight for tomorrow’.

Third track, Shackles & Bones, begins full force and I’m instantly imaging a Matilda’s Scoundrels live crowd getting pretty rowdy. As with all of their songs, there’s a clear element of folk to their punk with this track but it’s definitely more Dropkick Murphys than the Levellers. Something we hear more so in Shackles & Bones than other tracks are some great gang vocals. Other members of the band echo the chorus after Quinn sings it first, which adds a unified feel to the track. The song doesn't slow down until a short mandolin breakdown – which is just lovely! Next up we have Bow To The Powers, the only song from the album that has a music video to go with it, for now at least – which you can watch here. This song is as forceful as that which came before it but with a classic folky start that contrasts well. The song also happens to feature another sweet mandolin breakdown. Well, this band sure know what makes a great folk punk song! The chorus is super catchy and is bound to have audiences shouting along with the band across the country – and hopefully taking in its message as well. ‘Bow to the powers, Bow on your knees, There's blood on these hands, That were given to me.’ It's clear by this point of the album that the band have a lot of important messages that they want to get across with these songs. Rather than simply being party tunes, most of As The Tide Turns is about tackling some of the real world injustices that Matilda's Scoundrels care about – and you should too.

Mr Martyn has a longer musical intro than previous songs which almost feels like an interlude as this is around the middle point of the album. Actually this is one of the longer tracks of As The Tide Turns in general. There is a generous amount of banjo featured here that seems to give the song happier vibes – particularly compared to the previous tracks. After about a minute, crashing guitars can be heard followed by the vocals. The song is about how music can make you feel less alone. You can take music everywhere and never be alone. From the title of this next track, Bottles Of Rum, I'm already imagining a sea shanty, sea faring tune… and that's sort of what we get. Matilda's Scoundrels style anyway. This is the perfect opportunity for the crowd sailing dingy that they bring to their shows! This is definitely an album where each song offers opportunities for different instruments and their musicians to shine through. For me, in Bottles Of Rum, it is the accordion which has an awesome outro before chorus is repeated a few more times. ‘There's blood in the rum, Don't you know?’

Friend Of Mine is perhaps the folkiest-sounding song yet, heavily featuring both the accordion and the tin whistle. The two instruments lead us into the song giving it a super-duper rolling motion. Like Mr Martyn, this feels like one of the happier songs of the album with the subject matter of Friend Of Mine, of course, being about friendship –‘Friend of mine who saved my life’. I can pretty much picture smiles on band member’s faces whilst playing this one – which is an uplifting change after all of the aggressive songs! The catchy whistle part had me nodding and tapping my foot along. As we draw towards the end of the album the eighth track, War On Drugs, has just a few seconds of calm guitar before vocalist Quinn burst in with a great intensity. At only just over 2 minutes long, this is the shortest on As The Tide Turns and it brings things back to the protest theme that has fuelled much of the album. This is a band that really cares about making a change in the world. The song certainly wastes no time hanging around and gets straight to the point. The instruments are as raging as this song’s subject matter but I love how the banjo stands out clearly underneath the more typical punk band instruments.

As we get to the album’s second to last track, I realise that I kind of like Matilda’s Scoundrels’ sea-related songs the best. (Including Sinking In Their Sins from that first split.) God Forsaken Sea is that in a nutshell. After a count in of one, two, three, four the song kicks off with the line ‘Away, away, away we go to sea…’ It’s upbeat, it’s fiery and full of energy and super folky punky – I love it. The breakdown of God Forsaken Sea features almost all of the instruments at once and it seems to get louder and more enthusiastic as the song comes to an end. But it doesn’t end without a bang – the last minute is, well, I think the best word to describe it might be ‘theatrical’. As The Tide Turns wraps up with a track called Into The Fire. There is a long musical introduction to this song, predominantly featuring the tin whistle which tames things into sounding traditional. Of course, we know that with Matilda’s Scoundrels they won’t stay calm and ‘traditional’ for too long. You can tell something big is going to happen and very soon the guitars join the mix for one last folk punk assault. A fine ending to an excellent debut album.

As The Tide Turns was maybe a little bit angrier and heavier than I was expecting but that just means that it took me by surprise and didn't do exactly what I expected it to. Which is no bad thing. Matilda’s Scoundrels certainly haven’t steered away from the sound that we know and love, they have just perfected their songwriting and written about issues that they really care about – hoping that the listener will too – as well as amping up the intensity. Now I just can't wait to hear these songs live!*

Find Matilda’s Scoundrels on Facebook here and stream/buy As The Tide Turns on Bandcamp from Friday here.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

*At the time of writing this I haven’t seen Matilda’s Scoundrels play live recently but at the time of this being published I will have seen the band support Street Dogs. Look our for our gig review to see how my favourite Hastings folk punks went down.

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