WITH AN album cover and title that references the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks and all manner of Jamie Reid inspired multiple typeface, Rural Savage leave entrants to their second album in no doubt that their feet are firmly placed within the punk camp.
Unlike most Irish punk bands who take their cues from American hardcore and British Oi though, Rural Savage’s idiosyncratic humour, cynicism, and world view lie within that peculiarly Irish strain of the music that is Ulster punk, pioneered by Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, Rudi, Ruefrex, and The Outcasts.
This makes sense given that, despite being based in Galway, the band’s vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, and leader is Donegal’s Farren McDonald, one of the most individual talents in left-field Irish rock, abetted by fellow Donegal native Mosey Byrne on drums (third member is Corkonian Hob Junker on bass ).
The band’s debut album, I Fell In The Bog And Saw God was a strong start, but everything threatened to be overshadowed by the brilliant ‘Possessed By An Idiot’. It’s Not Your Wadi... has no such trouble though, boasting a number of tracks that will vie for the ‘best song’ status.
‘Lotto’, featuring a timeless rock’n’roll riff fuzzed up, and punked up, opens the album on a furious blast of noise. This in turn gives way to the mellower, more indie-surf vibe of ‘Paradise’, but that near three minutes of sunshine is a flash of light in an otherwise dark album. The unhinged punk/rock’n’roll fusion of ‘Twist & Shout’ is an unsettling tale of “two lost f*****s givin’ each other directions” in what is an often sexually violent relationship, possibly from both parties.
The Dead Kennedy’s-esque ‘Rapemobiles’ might be tasteless to many, with its chant of “It was the night/of the Rapemobiles”, but a closer listen reveal a concern with how the shaming of sex and the body can warp and damage human sexuality - something Ireland knows only too well. Likewise, ‘This House Is Haunted’ is shlock-horror goth-rock on the surface, but actually deals with the often fractious relationship between the settled and Travelling communities. McDonald’s own complicated relationship with his native county forms the core of ‘Up In Donegal’: “Where would I go and why would I stay?”
While the album is first and foremost punk, Rural Savage as ever allow moments of light and shade - at least musically. The roosty, county-esque anthem, ‘Please Be Gentle’, complete with accordion accompaniment, deals with mental illness and drug abuse.
Musically, the most ambitious song may be the grandstanding ‘We’re Going Drinking’ - imagine Dinosaur Jr covering The Velvet Underground’s ‘Sweet Jane’ - with its dextrous, melodic, intro and some raw, yet tasteful, lead playing. As ever there is darkness, which here concentrates on that Homer Simpson adage of drink being the cause and solution to all life’s ills.
A dark, unsettling work, but few Irish punk albums released this year will come close to its humour, imagination, or diversity.
Rural Savage launch It’s Not Your Wadi... It’s Rural Savage upstairs in the Róisín Dubh this Saturday at 10.30pm. Support is from Oh Boland, Doppelskangers, and So Cow’s Brian Kelly.