I remember once I’d been drinking for four days and I decided to go to a Trongate Rum Riots gig. Unfortunately, overindulgence eventually got the better of me, and by the time TRR were due to take to the stage I was on the toilet floor, unable to move after vomiting heavily and sinking into the seemingly inescapable abyss of a bad trip. I would have been a total wipe-out, but then something magical happened…
…Trongate Rum Riots played the opening chords of their first song, and by the time they were hitting the chorus I was back on my feet, completely rejuvenated and refreshed, with the rhythms coursing through my veins like a shot of really good Colombian marching powder taken at the source. Within another minute I was headfirst into the small mosh pit, and there I remained for the rest of the night, dancing and pogo-ing. “I won’t forget about, I won’t forget about Mariaaaaaaa!”
You see, music is very powerful, and the right kind of music played at just the right time can do incredible things, force a smile, shed a tear, lift a bad mood, give you that extra boost to finish your workout at the gym, get you through an arduous shift at work quicker, cause anger, solve an argument, prevent a suicide, bring someone out of a coma, all these things and more, music has the miraculous power to do, and does, every day. Tesla said “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
Some even speculate there are church organs that can cause a person to levitate, and that the Egyptians lifted the blocks to build the pyramids the same way scientists today are just now learning to levitate small objects using sound. Music, or sound, has mystical properties;
“Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of fuel. Sentimental people call it inspiration, but what they really mean is fuel. I have always needed fuel, I’m a serious consumer. On some nights, I still believe a car with the gas needle on empty can run fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the stereo.” ~ Hunter S Thompson.
And when the right band, get it just right, it’s even more powerful, anybody that has been to a TRR gig will tell you, they are one of the most energetic live shows around. As El Hefe Jamie Mcdermid so aptly put it:
“These guys aren’t just lightning in a bottle, they are lightning escaped from the bottle… They are the shitstorm that erupts when Benjamin Franklin accidentally ingests hallucinogenic mushrooms pre-experiment, panics right after the lightning strikes his beautiful fucking kite, and starts smashing up his lab with the lightning arcing and leaping from point to point all around him as he goes totally apeshit. Now imagine all that happening with a hoard of pirates nearby sing sea shanties at twice the speed they should normally be… There you go.”
I once described Tom Waits’ music as like being adrift at sea in a dinghy, while in the distance a party is happening on a boat, frustratingly just out of sight, and just beyond the edge of hearing… Well if that’s Tom Waits’ music then when you’re listening to TRR you are at the party and on the boat! Probably drunk on a toilet floor clutching an empty bottle of bourbon, but having a good time nonetheless.
You can make lots of comparisons; Flogging Molly, The Pogues, Dropkick Murphies, The Real McKenzies, but they are from Ireland, England, America and Canada, in Scotland however, we give you…. The Trongate Rum Riots! A class name for a class band, and a very apt name as they are definitely drinking music, and with that in mind I crack open a beer, light a joint and slip their latest album ‘Hymns of the Deep’ into the CD player.
Some strong strumming and drumming starts us off. Then, the familiar slurred, drunken vocals carry us quickly into a catchy chorus ‘how many hearts, how many hearts’ has been ringing through my head since I first heard it “and all I feel is jealousy”. With some fine celtic accompaniment in the ragtag of miscellaneous instruments that make up the turbo-charged Trongates. Folk music punked-up and fired over the bow from a cannon at an approaching vessel.
‘Sleeping in the Corn’ is a beautiful, wistful, murderous lament of love, with plucky banjos and wailing violins/fiddles. A dark tale of scorned love-lust, that I believe is describing a murder of jealousy. “Oh Jenny don’t you know that when your sailor boy comes home you’ll be nothing but a handful of roses [she was sleeping in the corn]”.
The third track and another stand-out song with ‘Beer Ran Dry’, great basslines and great lyrics. The sandpaper-and-glue-voice of Zez Jeopardy contrasting brilliantly with the incredible female vocs of Mama T, which is a constant and strong thread in the TRR sound, giving the songs great depth, the depth of hymns sung from the deep. “I thought my love would die, but the beer had just ran dry”.
‘Monday Morning’ actually encapsulates the feel of a Monday really well. Soulful, skilful singing from Mama T, and a mournful Monday morning guitar sound, with a slow creeping fear, culminating in a whiskey-sodden, rum-soaked, gin-drenched accordion outro. Just like a typical Monday really…
‘Hang Me’ has a writing credit for my best friend from primary school, Jamie Telford. Jamie was the first person to introduce me to TRR’s music, even before I stared my music journalism journey over four years ago. I got back in touch with him at the time and he was playing in the band, I think he has since departed them though. A brilliant celtic choon that accelerates and accelerates until you’re ‘driving fast on empty streets, with nothing in mind but falling in love and not getting arrested’. Raymond Ghallagher (no relation to Rory as far as I know) provides consistently good basslines that always pick the song back up to slam it home.
‘The Shame of John Heath’ is a nice wee musical interlude with an almost Ennio Morricone/Sergio Leone vibe to it. The whole album in fact, is like James Horner’s soundtrack to Braveheart (if he was an alcoholic all cranked up on amphetamines and angel dust).
The sinister ‘Kick It In’ chugs along with the momentum of a locomotive, and lends itself to an almost rockabilly style. And then the almost eighties soul/pop of ‘Hard Luck and Trouble’ marks the magnificent diversity of the dynamic album. Though they retain the same trademark sound they’re not afraid to walk the plank into a host of subgenres, from soul to folk, celtic to polka, punk to classic rock. There’s an almost Gary Moore bluesy-pop feel to the guitar in this track. A really fucking good song, it’s got passion, heart, balls and groove, Mama T is once again demonstrating her vocal supremacy.
Another Wild West meets West End of Glasgow musical interlude in ‘Horse’ that develops into a slowed down Misirlou-esque piece, before making its way through the realms of inebriated sea shanties and then back to pistols at dawn, all within four minutes.
The philosophically dipsomaniacal ramblings of a drunken poet in ‘Monkey Bars’; “I believe that monkeys came down from the trees, I believe in ships cos’ they sail on the seas, but when I get drunk, I see the stars, and that’s when I climb up my old monkey bars” a brilliant wee ditty for the penultimate track.
The masterpiece closes with the wonderfully-disjointed gypsy-music-saturated serenade that is ‘Clockwork Gypsy’. Great vocals, great lyrics, and great tuneage to end a record with which I can find no fault, other than you might not enjoy it if you’re a soulless, surly swine with no sense of style. Whether on the stage or on the stereo TRR always deliver a sterling performance. This album is another one that comes highly recommended by me. Read a brilliant review of the album launch night here http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/news/2017/5/25/trongate-rum-riots-launch-night-a-slightly-drunken-review-jamie-mcdermid And purchase the product here https://trongaterumriots.bandcamp.com/releases
Catch their inimitable, riotous, rowdy live shows at any of these dates:
9th June Ivory Black’s, Glasgow
7th July Clyde Bar, Helensborough
15th July Firefly Festival, Moniavie
29th July Lomond Folk Festival, Balloch
10-13 August Festival Chant Du Marine, France
25-27 August Cowal Games Afterglow, Dunoon
1st September Mr C’s Bar, Thurso
2nd September Orkney Rock Festival, Kirkwall
3rd September The Kelp Store, Papa Westray
9th September Clutha Bar, Glasgow
Trongate Rum Riots are, and remain, one of Glasgow’s finest bands, and their third album only proves it, like a rolling keg of beer they keep on picking up momentum, or a fine glass of champagne that keeps on bubbling, or a faithful, dogged bartender that keeps on pouring … What? Come on, this has been a great excuse to get in as many drink references as I could…
Seeya’ at the bar…
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