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.