The Real McKenzies


The Real McKenzies Beer and Loathing CD

I have to confess, having grown up in Scotland, I always hated the bagpipes. Firstly, no fucker (including on one of the tracks on this new CD—their eleventh full-length in an almost 30-year run to date) can get the drone quite in tune. Secondly, like fife and drums, the bagpipes are basically used to play martial music, which is a load of bollocks an’ all. Despite that, however, I’ve always had a soft spot for the REAL MCKENZIES. They play anthemic melodic, driving punk, well, with bagpipes! At their best, they sound like the glory days of NO USE FOR A NAME and GOOD RIDDANCE, with the bagpipes largely just being part of the instrumentation. There is the occasional tired old “traditional” song, instrumentals with embarassing names like “A Widow’s Watch” and “The Seafarers Return,” and lyrically, a nod to the usual sad nationalistic/militaristic bullshit. How come it’s all about fighting for the King (i.e. being a tool of empire) or Bonnie Prince Charlie (the weirdo German prince who couldn’t speak English, let alone Gaelic, who briefly fancied himself in the interminable internecine wars of the ruling classes). Whatever happened to singing real rebel songs, about James Connolly, and Hardie & Baird. Anyways, I digress. There are a couple of folk-rock power ballads on here, which don’t do much for me, but the real gem contained herein is a dead-ringer for early BIG COUNTRY. Some of you may remember the glory of BIG COUNTRY (who came out of Scottish punk band the SKIDS in the early ’80s) and who perfected the twin guitar attack to, well, sound like bagpipes, to fantastic melodic effect. Well, the REAL MCKENZIES manage to do just that..with twin guitars and bagpipes. Fair enough.