Album Review: Skinny Lister – Shanty Punk

Skinny Lister are a band like no other, creating amazing folk-punk songs with more than a hint of the Celtic folk scene. They’re been going for years now, and they’re always a joy to chat to or see live. The band are also pretty active in terms of their album releases, and I always find myself looking forward to a new Skinny Lister record, so I was very excited to discover Shanty Punk.

By Jane Howkins

The good news is that fans have nothing to worry about, as the songs on Shanty Punk are more of the same. However, that presents a bit of a predicament, as the band haven’t done too much to change things up either. Not that they need to, as there’s no point in fixing something that isn’t broken, but it would be nice to hear them mixing things up more like they did on their previous release, A Matter of Life & Love. It’s just that there’s a definite rhythm to a Skinny Lister album, and one that most fans will expect.

However, that’s not to say that Shanty Punk isn’t worth a listen. Skinny Lister are a band that have carved out their own niche in the world, and they sure know how to fill it! The record starts out stylistically with Haul & Bale, a sea shanty of sorts. However, it isn’t purely acapella, with an array of instruments played in the background, including a gorgeous set of accordion chords. The sea shanty nature of the chorus makes it sound really catchy, utilising the backing vocals well to create some lovely harmonies.

Unto the Breach comes barrelling into play next, doing what Skinny Lister do best. It’s a fast folk-punk track with a singalong, anthemic chorus, getting you into the spirit straight away. Third track Company of the Bar is similar, building up to the epic chorus and speeding up the pace towards this end – I can tell this will be a proper belter when performed live. Both tracks are sung by Dan, as are most of the songs on the album.

Mantra is the first Lorna song – Lorna’s tracks tend to be on the slower side, and this song is no different. It actually reminds me a lot of Beans On Toasts’ music – there’s a particular chord sequence that he seems to utilise a bit too much, which Mantra has. It’s got a good message behind it and I liked it, but I just couldn’t get the similarities out of my head.

13 Miles is another anthemic sea shanty – the Devon references stirred up memories for me of childhood holidays on the beaches of that county. It’s more of a proper sea shanty than Haul & Bale, featuring a volley of vocals against a driving drum beat. There’s something irresistibly catchy about the whole thing, getting stuck in your brain for hours to come. Down on the Barrier changes the pace quickly, as it’s one of the up-tempo folk-punk songs that Skinny Lister have become known for. The chorus features a series of ‘woah-oahs’, inviting you to sing along to this anthemic banger. It’s one of my stand out tracks on the album.

Arm Wrestling in Dresden is still upbeat, but it’s got more of a traditional folk vibe, opening with an immense array of instrumentation. Pittsburgh Punchup is another Lorna track, although it’s a little faster than you might expect from one of her songs. The backing vocals on the chorus perfectly accentuate her voice, creating another tune with a singalong quality. It all breaks down before the last chorus, allowing Lorna’s powerful voice to truly shine through.

Forge On George is a Dan song, utilising an elaborate sense of rhyme to draw you in. When performing live, Skinny Lister often pass round a flagon of beer to the audience to drink, and this track sounds like it’s been created for that very moment. I can’t wait to see it in action! William Harker is another more folky tune, although it’s unique in that the lead vocals are sung by Party George, Max & Lorna’s dad. The vocals add a really unique tone, suiting the lyrical content well.

Last up is a Lorna song, titled Broken, Bruised & Battered. It’s quite slow, but it tails the album out nicely. It’s more of a ballad, telling an interesting tale through the lyrics. The music is all very anthemic too, as Lorna sings in lovely style over the folky instrumentation.

If you’re already a Skinny Lister fan, or you’re just into your Celtic folk-punk, then you should find a lot of good in Shanty Punk. It’s an album that shows what the band do best, although a little more variety next time might be nice.