'THE WILD Rover' is known as a rambunctious, 'no regrets' ode, to a one time life of boozing. In the hands of Lankum though, it is a very different proposition.
Here the pace is slow, the mood sombre, and the words, in a fuller form then we are normally used to, depict a life of poverty and deprivation brought on by addiction. It is the inverse of all we knew of the song.
Musically it is hypnotic, mandolin, pipes, and fiddle combine to create sustained, droning, ambient notes that build into layers of sound, and where Pink Floyd-like, a simple chord change sounds momentous, epic. Live, as anyone who witnessed their Róisín Dubh gig last weekend can attest, it creates something spellbinding and powerful.
This approach, of long, atmospheric, and thematically dark songs defines the Dublin quartet's latest album. 'Katie Cruel' takes a similar approach to 'The Wild Rover', but is even bleaker, the music reflecting lyrics which deal with prejudice against outsiders - uncomfortably relevant for Galway given recent events. Closing track 'Hunting The Wren', inspired by a womens' commune in Kildare in the 1800s, becomes a mediation on misogyny and violence against women. Perhaps no one but Radie Peat could have delivered such songs so convincingly.
Amid the darkness there are moments of light - the jaunty 'The Pride of Petravore' sounds like an unhinged trad session at a Gothic carnival - and is all the better for it. 'The Young People' may deal with the fleetingness of youth, time, and life, yet the warmth of softness of the band's vocal harmonies give a sense of comfort and solidarity.
Lankum, are, and remain, the most exciting thing to have happened in Irish folk and trad for years. This album only further confirms that.