How many people do you need in a band? Jimi Hendrix got by with three. Ye Banished Privateers boasts 30 crewmembers. That’s the size of a small orchestra. And like an orchestra, they boast a fully encompassing sound that draws you in and fills every corner of your mind. This ‘unique mix of Scandinavian & Irish pirate folk punk’ is truly something to behold.
I have to admit that nowadays when someone says ‘pirate band’, Alestorm immediately comes to mind. This is both good and bad as it sets up an expectation. Throw out that expectation though as they are totally different beasts and each deserves their niche.
I don’t mind a bit of folk music, but I’ve found I can only do a few songs before I need to change to something else. I didn’t have that issue with this album. Everything is seamless and while it sounds very samey on one level, each song is totally different to the last in tempo, style and delivery. Each track is fresh and keeps you interested. The album goes by very quickly and has a very strong theme throughout, which makes it hard to split up into individual tracks.
The album plays like an evening at a tavern (Cooper’s Inn), various folk tell tall tales of their adventures while the room heaves and ho’s along. My only gripe with so many band members is that it’s easy to get lost in who does what. A very large selection of instruments are used. Pump organ, viola, accordion, harmonica, fiddle, sitar, 5-string banjo, squeeze box, washboard and bass trombone all feature. There’s a lot of diversity here and it makes for a very unique sound and rich atmosphere. You’re in the tavern while half of it is singing along and the other half is in the midst of various nefarious schemes. I can only imagine what they sound like on stage. That level of immersion and complexity must be hard to replicate.
It’s hard to split the tracks apart as they really do fit together so well. If I really must though, the songs that stand out most for me are: Annabel, First Night Back In Port, Cooper’s Rum and Ringaroo At Cooper’s Inn.
The lyrics are wonderful. Colourful, clever and downright smutty, each listen ekes out another nugget of gold. The Scandinavian accent adds to the delivery with Magda Märlprim and Shameless Will sharing the bulk of the vocals. I couldn’t tell you who else shares the load as it’s a warren of talent. The instruments are a cacophony of period perfection – everything you’d expect from the romantic view of the late 1700s period of high seas swashbucklery. The Australian penal colony gets a few mentions too, so extra points for that.
This is an album totally unique in my (probably limited) experience. Well worth a listen.
Would I buy a patch? Considering it’s not a metal band, saying ‘yes’ carries extra weight behind it. Yes, yes I would.
First Night Back In Port is out now on Napalm Records. The band is currently touring Europe.