Planet of sound

Rural Savage - I Fell In A Bog And Saw God (independent )

WHEN IT comes to punk in Ireland you could say, ‘You don’t have to be from Ulster (and remember Ulster is nine counties, not just six ), but it helps.’

In the late 1970s the Ulster punk scene was the most vibrant and exciting in Ireland (Dublin was just a pale shadow ) and while punk bands have sprung up from every corner of the nation since, Ulster punk remains a unique variant of the genre.

However many of today’s Irish punk bands take their cues from American hardcore and British anarchist punk, so where are those flying the flag for that peculiarly Irish strain pioneered by Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, Rudi, Ruefrex, The Outcasts, etc?

Perhaps it is because there is a specific humour, identity, attitude, and outlook that arises from a border region where competing political, social, and cultural values are to the fore (which would also account for the Ulster punk’s fury and tense energy ) regardless of which side of the border you are on, that it is only an Ulster band which can carry on that tradition and bring it forward, and there is a band which fits that bill - Rural Savage.

Although they have a Galway member (bassist Hob Junker ) and they are based in the city, the other two members - Farren McDonald (vocals/guitar/songwriter ) and Mosey Byrne (drums ) - hail from Donegal and it is the Ulster (generally ) and Donegal (specifically ) outlook of McDonald that informs their music, lyrics, and attitude.

I Fell In A Bog And Saw God is Rural Savage’s debut album and it is in the firm tradition of raucous Ulster punk while at the same time we can hear an idiosyncratic and individual talent in McDonald.

The album opens with a blast of furious noise that is ‘College Dropout’, which delights in puncturing holes in your happy memories of your university days and how great you thought you were back then.

Fearsomely fast rhythms and dirty, heavy sounding, guitars dominate I Fell In A Bog... with its fast and furious punk best heard on the thrilling ‘Possessed By An Idiot’, which builds to an exciting, anthemic, chorus.

However there are other elements at play, which provide contrast and diversity to the music. ‘Skrag Heap’ is melodic indie, with an almost shoegaze style guitar riff while ‘Dada Taranta’ makes a nod towards the dark psychedelia of The Doors.

Best though are the two oddest tracks on the album - ‘Male Pattern Blandness’ a witty and perceptive satire on middle aged male attitudes (“I’m anti the dog/anti the cat/give me a topic and I’m anti that” ) over a jerky beat and the sounds of brass instruments.

Even weirder is ‘Irishchildhoodhex’, weird because on a furious punk album that last thing you expect to hear is a delicate pastoral ballad of gently rolling piano and acoustic guitar that recalls Pink Floyd c1969/1970! Yet lyrically its ruminations remain firmly placed in an Ulster experience.

The raucous tradition of Ulster punk is in good hands and Rural Savage are breathing new life into it. And you don’t have to be from Ulster to enjoy it.

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