PIPES AND PINTS – Found & Lost

7559ff1fc2421d9210335710df7750838a34939aFollowing an EP in 2008, US/Czech punks Pipes and Pints attracted a cult audience with their first full length LP in 2009.  Three years on, their brand of Celtic street punk gets a second airing on ‘Found & Lost’.   It is unlikely to win over many people who’ve previously not grasped any other bagpipe led punk outfits, but most of the songs are incredibly strong.  The strength of the material combined with a fantastic production job from Darian Rundell (known for  his work with Pennywise and 98 Mute) is enough to ensure the band picks up a few new fans of their chosen subgenre on their ongoing journey.

Offering a good overview of the band’s sound, ‘One Connection’ forges ahead with some tough street punk riffs and a sound worthy of Rancid/Lars Frederiksen & The Bastards.  Crunchy guitars and rumbling bassline attack the listener with a near relentlessness, and it is quickly obvious that in terms of rhythm section, Pipes and Pints could rival most of their better known contemporaries.  While the tune is excellent, the best moments come courtesy of a gang vocal that hits hard with some simple repetition.  …And it’s that shout-along, near anthemic approach which eventually proves ‘Found & Lost’s best calling card, something which sits proudly front and centre during the title cut.  While that particular song doesn’t have one of Pipes and Pints’ most imaginative arrangements, it wins through on the chorus alone.  On the relatively lengthy ‘Warpath 82’ they take a similar tack, topping a strong punk ethic with gang vocals, infectious whoas and, ultimately, moments of call and response between chorus and lead voice which provide a great sense of unity.

A touch more tuneful in places, ‘Calling Me’ adopts quieter verses, led by bassist Ondra Balvin.  When it kicks in, the tune has a full-on bounce quota, with a sound that hints at previous work classic punkers and sometime label-mates Face To Face.  While each band member gives their all, interestingly, the most memorable aspect comes from Votja Kalina’s bagpipes, as he uses them to deliver something akin to an upbeat riff as opposed to the more usual drones.  Throw in more gang vocals and you have a winning combination.  Although cut from similar elements, the rousing ‘Right Or Wrong’ pushes all the right buttons with punky attack and old-school, slightly 50s rock ‘n’ roll guitar break.  Since the music is solid throughout and (during the quietest moments) Syco Mike sounds like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones Dicky Barrett, this particular track would have been improved if Kalina had left the bagpipes to one side…just for a while.

Perhaps the strongest track overall on this second outing, ‘Her Life and Thoughts’, mixes traditional staccato punk riffs with heavier guitar chops showing a strong sense of light and shade throughout.  Although the vocals have the usual gravelly approach, the lyrics are delivered crisply and have an audible quality that’s well suited to the relatively melodic style adopted.  The bagpipes – used here in a very traditional fashion – add intermittent drones, which although aren’t necessarily bringing anything vital to the overall mix, are fine enough.  After all, you can’t really tackle Celtic punk without them.

Looking at the bigger picture, the band have a knack with a chorus that deserves to greet the ears of a bigger audience. If you like bagpipes and punk, you’re fine and dandy and firmly set for half an hour of fairly raucous singalongs, but if the bagpipe starts to grate – let’s remember, it’s never been the most musicial of instruments – ‘Found & Lost’ could be considered a tougher listen at times, at least for some.  At their best, though, even if not as well rounded as the Dropkick Murphys on this disc, Pipes and Pints could teach the often-on-autopilot Flogging Molly a thing or two.

January 2013