Although Matilda’s Scoundrel’s announced they’d be taking a hiatus from the end of 2019 – every hard working musician needs a rest eventually, unless they’re Frank Turner – a few previously unreleased tracks have slipped through the cracks since then. Their contribution to a Revenge of The Psychotronic Man tribute release (‘Rrose Selavy’) blended fuzzy post-punk guitar noises to a ska rhythm which, when topped with various mandolin style sounds, became a great four minute example of the band’s abilities to cross genres even when working with other peoples’ material, and a couple of left-overs from the sessions for their 2017 release ‘As The Tide Turns’ crept out on a 7” at the beginning of 2021.
That 7”, ‘The Devil’s Dues’, presents two songs that are quite different from each other, yet at the same time, almost feel as if they were meant to be presented together. Each one demonstrates the band’s folk-punk intensity and the musical collective’s playing abilities via a couple of very sharp arrangements. Opting for a full on, crowd baiting, rousing approach, ‘Buckets of Blood’ shows the Hastings lads at their least subtle, as they meld their raucous folk to an even less subtle lyrical refrain that taps into the era’s fascination with pirate themed singalongs and various other nautical nightmares. If you’re not entirely attuned to that kind of thing, it might seem abrasive, but in time it shows itself as a strong addition to the band’s catalgue. It takes just a few bars before an accordion refrain rises above a barrage of punky guitars, and by the time the verse really grabs a hold, there’s so much here that makes the Scoundrel’s sound like a UK homegrown answer to Dropkick Murphys. By the time you’ve heard the chorus hook twice – complete with its rousing gang vocals – it sounds like something you’ve known forever. The best moments come during the instrumental break, though, where a strong folk melody – complete with tin whistle – punches through the noise with a much broader tune. All things considered, it’s good for the style.
‘Jousting Crowd’ drops into far more of a traditional folk punk arrangement, often sounding like a Pogues deep cut with extra banjo and much better vocals (hardly difficult), and seems a little generic on the surface. However, closer inspection uncovers some great playing, particularly during a slower interlude where fingerpicked melodies rise up and heavy drums add an even more complex layer to an already busy melody. Its lyrics, retelling of the days of “blood and guts of the simple man” and “a twelve foot lance” in the name of The King, show off more of the band’s frivolous and darkly humourous side, complimenting the music perfectly. Although the band being on hiatus – followed by the cancellation of most gigs for everyone – means this didn’t greet a live audience after being completed, it’s easy to imagine a world where it would become a live favourite among fans.
With two songs and two moods augmented by the usual fighting spirit, there’s plenty within this bite sized stopgap that’s archetypal Scoundrels. It’s raucous, yet contains some strong melodic roots which, overall, show up the likes of Skinny Lister for the lightweight bandwagon jumpers they really are. Although a pair of tunes on seven inches of shiny black plastic is not quite up to bringing the excitement of a full new work, ‘The Devil’s Dues’ is certainly enough to keep fans of the Hastings based folk-punks entertained until their full return.