Friday, 19 September 2014

The Pukes - Too Drunk to Pluck

The Pukes are such a great idea you wonder why someone didn’t do it before.  It may be that someone did and I’m not aware of it: if so, please let me know so I can check them out because I can’t get enough of this band and if anything like them in the universe exists I want to know about it.

It’s a simple idea.  You take a bunch of ukuleles and a bunch of punk songs alongside some tunes you’re written yourself, play them in an unaffected and spirited manner and eventually put them out on an album called ‘Too Drunk To Pluck’.  But you add a twist, because many of the songs covered are not the most obvious choices and that’s part of what makes the collection such a delight.  Given the vast number of possibilities available, why would a ukulele band decide to approach such an apparently inaccessible number for their instruments as ‘Holiday in Cambodia’?  And why ignore the temptations of the Pistols, Buzzcocks and The Clash in favour of Discharge, Peter & The Test Tube Babies and Cock Sparrer?
I don’t know, but the selections are original enough to give this collection an off-kilter quality that sets it apart from any expectations with which you might have approached it, and they pull every one of them off brilliantly.  The original compositions stand up very well too: ‘Will I Learn’ is a punk classic that someone forgot to write first time round, while ‘The Ballad of Micky Fitz’ has a street charm that in itself is reflective of some of the aforementioned choices: this is not a band stylistically welded to a 1976/77 vintage – its inspiration comes just as much from the output of early eighties neu punk, whose place in the punk canon has too often been denied.
They do far more than just set the record straight, however.  The Pukes’ ukulele charge is a powerful and innovative musical statement in its own right: there is no sub-George Formby cheesiness here, but a stripped down assault that loses none of its forthright appeal through the lack of guitar riffage or punctuating snare attacks. The Pukes are a musical delight in their own right: treasure them, then pray for that ukulele-based homage to the Anti-Nowhere League the world has been waiting for.
I'm playing their version of Cock Sparrer's 'Because You're Young' in my Dandelion Radio show this month and you can get the album from their website at

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Molokai - Rack Attack 2.0

There was a time, around the mid-nineties, when I was particularly enamoured of surf music.  Enamoured is putting it mildly, actually.  I was often seen emerging from independent records shops in various parts of the midlands and north-west of England with teetering piles of vinyl threatening to obscure the path in front of me as I ventured precariously into the traffic.
It was a bad habit to acquire because, too late, I realised that I’d got to the stage of buying things I didn’t actually like very much.  Belatedly, I eschewed my profligate ways, returned to the more varied musical diet that was my natural inclination and became, I admit, something of a surf music sceptic.  Whilst the likes of Man…or Astroman continued to form an important part of my listening experience, I grew wary of venturing too far into the surf waters lest I once again be indiscriminately consumed by whatever lay out there.
The consequence of this is that nowadays a surf band has to be pretty damn special to attract my attention.  Molokai are one such band.  Emerging not from southern California but from Bitola, Macedonia, they’ve released their second album despite all being a mere nineteen years of age.  It comes via their own Predisposed To Oppose label and it’s the best bit of surf guitar to assault my lugholes in many a long year.
Titles like ‘Creepy Heap From The Deep’ ought to grab your attention anyway and even born again surf cynics like me can acknowledge that what lays behind such surface charms more than delivers on its initial promise.  Molokai have exactly what a really top drawer instrumental surf band needs: a rhythm section keeping it tight and steady while the guitars let rip to deliver riffs that manage to stay faithful to the idiom yet – and this is what sets them apart – sound like nothing like anything other worthy practitioners of the art like M…oA, Sir Bald Diddley or the Tiki-Men ever unleashed on the world.
Thus, I can confidently play a track like ‘John Travolta in the Castle Revolta’ in my Dandelion Radio show this month secure in the knowledge that I’m not only doing it because I like saying the title.   If you want to hear more, and I suggest you do, find it at  Disturbingly, the fact they've put (2011-14) on there suggests this might be the end of their short existence - let's hope not.