Monday, 1 November 2010

One song to the tune of another

By contrast with my previous Brewery Arts visit, the Bad Shepherds are not really in the business of singing cover versions of the songs they play. They are a three piece modern folk band (amplified pipes, fiddles and mandolins) and the songs they sing share the lyrics, and some musical themes, of key 1980s pop / punk / post-punk songs. But it is as though the songs have been completely taken apart and reconstructed on different rhythms, harmonies and, perhaps even, time signatures. And thus each begins by prompting a period of tense and curious anticipation for the listener. Just what song will emerge?

In the end, I found the re-emergence in every song of the same kind of celtic folk arpeggios beginning to grate. I wanted to hear something of the directness of the originals. (Had things been reversed, would the emergence of post-punk features been similarly grating? Possibly.) But the focus on the lyrics of the songs produced some gems. 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight' was no longer just a good Jam song but a good song. And there was even genuine pathos, invisible in its usual setting, in a song beginning:

If you like to gamble, I tell you I'm your man
You win some, lose some, it's all the same to me
The pleasure is to play, it makes no difference what you say
I don't share your greed, the only card I need is...