Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Album Review: Barfly by The Real McCoys (by Emma Prew)

The Real McCoys are a four-piece celtic-influenced folk punk band from Houston, Texas (via Uruguay, I think). In October 2017 they released an album titled Barfly on Folk Drunk Records (which I suspect may be their own label give that ‘Folk Drunk’ was the title of their previous album). The album was originally on Colin’s review list but I heard a snippet – banjo, mandolin, accordion, etc. – and we decided this was definitely more up my street. Me being a folk punk queen and all.

After an audio clip about doing things in life just because you can and you want to rather than for anybody else, Last Call opens up Barfly with a flurry of folky instruments – the whistle and banjo standing out the most. It’s this opening melody that sandwiches itself between verses throughout the song and instantly gets stuck in your head. Much like the audio clip at the beginning, Last Call is about doing things your way with likeminded friends – ‘Until the last call we’ll still be here, Screaming our lungs out, Singing to deaf ears.’ It’s a short song at only a minute and a half long but it gets the album going with plenty of energy and has listeners eager for track number two, Trippin’ Up The Stairs. This song starts a little more slowly than the first but you can tell that it won’t remain that way for long. The first chorus comes in quite early – ‘And it’s one, two, three, You’ll be tripping up the stairs, Four, five, six, You’ll be tripping up the stairs, Anymore you’ll be crawling, Crawling.’ – before a furious instrumental section that sees the accordion make an appearance (and I love a bit of accordion). It’s great when a song is a bit more experimental in its structuring rather than simply being verse, chorus, verse, etc.

Up next is Lettuce (Jacob Berg) a song that kicks off with an almost nautical melody with the guitar, banjo and accordion generating a moderate swinging motion. It reminds me a lot of my favourite Canadian cider punks, The Dreadnoughts, and that’s definitely not a bad thing. This is definitely a song that would be best listened to with a pint of beer or cider in hand. Lettuce is a song about being there for a friend in need and offering the wise life advise ‘There’s no use in worrying when you can’t change a thing.’ Certainly one of my favourite songs on Barfly. Troubled Waters picks up the pace again, at least after an audio clip from Donald Trump (I think) saying the word ‘China’ a lot. Troubled Waters feels like more of an angry song than the previous three and rightly so given its political themes. The chorus, or is it the first verse as it actually starts the song, sees vocalist Josh repeat the lines ‘These troubled waters, These troubled waters…’ while a second vocal screams vehemently in the background. The whole song is fast paced and, like those before it, is also really short so its all over before you know it – giving the listener a small breather before we dive into the next song.

The fifth song is called The Loneliest Kill and things get going with a lone acoustic guitar before a second guitar and the vocals join in after a few seconds. ‘Well the sun is going down on the loneliest hill, Not a soul around for miles after the loneliest kill.’ The melodies and lyrics had me picturing scenes from a classic Western film although I have no idea if that was The Real McCoys’ intention. Either way, the tale told is a dark and atmospheric one with plenty to get the ol’ imagination going. I’m So Happy You Could Die is next up, starting out with steady drums and rhythmic guitar part that’ll have your head nodding in an instant. After the first verse the pace and volume are picked up a little and both the drums and guitar become more rolling in an almost country music stylee. This song is an apology to a friend, who is more of an acquaintance really, that may have not been treated as they deserved. ‘Farewell to a friend, I won’t be seeing you again, You weren’t the best but an okay friend, I couldn’t trust you, I hardly knew you, I couldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you, But I knew I threw you in the dirt. Sorry that it hurt.’ The song, as well as previous songs on Barfly, make me think of a combination between Streetlight Manifesto and Mischief Brew – two great bands.

Next we have a song titled Oh, Shane. After my first couple of listens to the album and this song, I settled with myself that the Shane in this song is the infamous Shane MacGowan of dodgy teeth, drunken antics and The Pogues frontman fame. It could in fact be a song about another Shane who likes a drink or two but the fact that Oh, Shane has the line ‘Ain’t no shame in waking on the sunny side of the street’ and The Pogues have a song called Sunnyside Of The Street has me convinced. This is a rousing celtic-influenced punk song that is sure to get a live audience dancing. Another song that opens with an audio clip is the oddly titled eighth track, Koala Bear Guacamole. When the song gets going properly it does so in style with an enthusiastic a cappella first verse featuring vocals from more than just the lead vocalist. ‘If I ever needed anyone, I needed you, Oh lord if I ever needed anyone, It might as well be you.’  If ever there was a perfect song designed for a rousing barroom singalong, it might as well be this one. Probably the song most likely to encourage mass singalong so far anyway. 

The ninth track of Barfly is Arguing On The Internet About Politics which begins with a slow banjo melody and vocals that sound slightly distant. This serves as a short introduction before the vocals become clearer on the second verse. For the most part this is a slow and thoughtful song, quite different from the rowdiness of many of the previous tracks. As you might have gathered from the song title, Arguing On The Internet About Politics is about people voicing their opinions somewhere where they know that they won’t have to deal with the consequences in quite the same way as in the ‘real world’ – ‘Shut the door, The world is too cold and uncertain.’ Barfly started out with a lot of shorter songs, less than 2 minutes in length, but this song is verging on 3 minutes. It uses the extra time to gradually build in volume and emotion until all instruments are back – there’s even a guitar solo. Wait For Summer is perhaps more of a straight up punk rock track compared to the folk punk sound of much of the album. The guitars, drums and bass guitar hold the forefront on this one and the chorus is a little bit poppy and hella catchy. ‘It’s harder to shut it off when you know you’re wrong, Brushing it off just moves it around, But it always collects and drags you down, It’s harder to shut your mouth when you know you’re right, Kick back, Wait for summer…’

Too Far Gone is the title of the penultimate song of Barfly and it features a guest appearance from Jesse Sendejas of DIY folk punk pros, Days ’N’ Daze. Too Far Gone is one big singalong-able, get drunk and merry to folk frenzy. The song is about it being too late to turn back from the path you’re heading down so trying to make the best of a bad situation. ‘We’ve too far gone to turn this ship around, The captain’s already corrupt…’ I enjoyed the references to sailing on a ship as they seem appropriate for this type of music. Too Far Gone speeds by at an alarming rate so much so that I feel tired just listening to it and before we know it we have come to the last song. Closing out Barfly is an appropriately titled song – The Hangover. Things are toned down here for a song about the morning after the night before – we’ve all (probably) been there. There’s a sense of all being in this together in the gang vocal chorus of ‘la, la, la, la…’. After one final verse, the acoustic guitar, banjo and xylophone play out the song before a final round of la la las. A fitting ending to a fine piece of folk punk.

I’m a little bit late to the party with Barfly but, as is often the case, it is better late than never. These 12 songs have the right balance between DIY rawness and skilled musicianship and the album is full of catchy melodies and fine lyricism. With most of the songs being less than 2 minutes in length, the whole album is only 25 minutes long – so there’s no reason for you not to be able to fit a listen into your life. Check it out!

Stream and download Barfly on Bandcamp here. And like The Real McCoys on Facebook here.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

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