The Bloody Seamen – Ahoy Motherfuckers (self-released, 19 September 2013)
Hello there, friends and fans of great music! Here’s something I’d been planning on sharing with you last week, but I didn’t have a chance to get any writing done all week because shit got crazy at work. Between someone on vacation, someone at a week-long conference, someone having to go to the hospital, and a temp who doesn’t know how to do much yet, my department was reduced by about half. Which means instead of doing the work of two people, I was actually working for like three or four. No fun.
But really, this review is way more overdue than that — the album I’m telling you about was actually released nine months ago (coincidentally, last year’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day), and I’ve been listening to it over and over since then. The debut album by Pittsburgh’s premier pirate rock band, The Bloody Seamen, impressed me and exceeded my expectations so much, it gained a spot on my list of 2013’s best releases. And today (finally!) I’d like to tell you why.
* * * * * * *
As some of you may recall, I wrote a brief introduction to this band about two years ago. Since that time, they’ve undergone a number of line-up changes: beyond the core of vocalist Cap’n Blackguts, guitarist Filthy Cheswick, and accordion/bagpipe/fife player Mr. Pipes, this album included a new second guitarist (Davey Blackheart), new bassist (Dead Hand Dan), and new drummer (Thor); the band had also augmented its sound with the addition of a keyboard player (Billy Two-Butts). According to their Facebook page, in the months since then, this ragtag group has again had to replace a few members (keyboard, tin whistle, accordion, and trumpet duties now being shared by newcomers Scabby Pete and Seaweed), with many ex-seamen listed as deceased or lost at sea. But, I suppose, such is the pirate’s life.
It would be easy for someone to take one look at this band — with their punny name, over-the-top live performances, and pirate costume/character schtick — and just write them off as a novelty act. But on closer inspection, The Bloody Seamen take having fun very seriously. They don’t just throw on some dollar-store Halloween hats and eye patches; lots of attention to detail is put into each member’s professional-grade, movie-quality costume and make-up. More importantly, though, these are all talented punk/metal musicians — which is apparent from the lengthy guitar solo that closes out “Giant Island,” to the banjo that makes up the foundation of “The Pittsburgh Pirate” and the intro/outro of “What’s Become,” to the Flogging Molly-ish accordion that accompanies “Stand Before the Mast” and “Who Pissed in Me Rum?” — and besides that, these guys can write some damn fine and damn catchy songs. Just try listening to this album once, and see if you don’t catch yourself humming “Who Pissed…” or “The Pittsburgh Pirate” or “We Sail” for weeks afterward!
Of course, Ahoy, Motherfuckers! is filled with many of the band’s live favorites like “The Drinking and Fighting Song,” “Hail Bartender,” and “We Sail,” but these shout-along anthems translate surprisingly well into a studio format — even without watching the chaotic antics of rum-swilling privateers up on stage. In fact, the clarity of the recording brings out many nuances of the songs that are likely to be lost in a bar atmosphere. The aforementioned talent of the musicians, for example, but also the material benefits from being able to more clearly discern all of the lyrics — whether it’s their classic ballads like “The Unlucky Seven” and “What’s Become”; or being better able to catch all of the punchlines; or just discovering clever little turns of phrase here and there (I nearly laughed out loud when the Captain asked “Who taught my parrot to say ‘fuck you’ to me?”).
The album also showcases the band’s wide range of stylistic influence — since Pirate Rock isn’t so much a specific musical genre as it is a summation of the lyrical content, they’re free to incorporate various elements of punk, metal, hard rock, and classic rock. These last two can be most distinctly heard in “Hail Bartender” with its Led Zeppelin or AC/DC guitar and harmonica syle; the song is somewhat reminiscent of Bon Scott vocally as well. Elsewhere, on a trilogy of songs (“Amazon Island,” “Gorilla Island,” and “Giant Island”) scattered throughout the record, which recounts the misadventures of the narrator as he continually finds himself in rather uncomfortable places (think uncomfortable like the backseat of a Volkswagen), the band introduces a bit of a reggae/rock style somewhat akin to The Police.
Among my favorite songs on the album are the last two: “Red Sky” alludes to the familiar “sailor take warning” saying, and could serve as sort of a companion piece to The Fixx‘s “Red Skies” perhaps, although this track’s gruff vocals and somewhat sing-songy chorus are far more reminiscent of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones‘ song “Nevermind Me”. And finally, with “Black Depth” the Seamen demonstrate that they have yet more unexpected tricks up their sleeve, as this song builds into an epic, apocalyptic, doom-metal ode to the sea god Poseidon and the watery grave that awaits vanquished foes.
In summary, yes the costumes and the buccaneer theme may seem a bit gimmicky, but don’t let that deter you because otherwise you’d be missing out on some quality stuff here.
Listen to Ahoy Motherfuckers at Bandcamp (below), and buy yourself a copy of this overlooked gem here.
* * * * * * *