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Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera!

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TRACKLISTING

  1. I Fought The Law
  2. Down In The Tube Station At Midnight
  3. Rise
  4. Whole Wide World
  5. The Model
  6. Teenage Kicks
  7. Once In A Lifetime
  8. London Calling
  9. Up The Junction
  10. Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera!
  11. God Save The Queen

BAD SHEPS album book 2010 copy_Page_1

Album Reviews

FOR 'Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera!'
ROCK 'N' REEL
****

Any preconceptions I might have held regarding the ‘seriousness’ of this project helmed by Adrian Edmondson, comedian, actor and now frontman of The Bad Shepherds were quickly dispelled upon hearing the respectful yet authoritative, inventive and witty approach to much of the material on their debut disc, Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera! (Cumbrian dialect for ‘One, Two, Three, Four’, fact fans: Ed).

Recording the album live in the studio was a good move – especially as the Shepherds are essentially a live band, with a busy gig schedule ahead of them. Consequently what you see is what you’ll get, and what you do get is a series of classics from the punk and new wave past interpreted, Shepherds-style, through the use of instruments more readily associated with folk music.

That it works so well is in no small part due to the hand-picked ‘dream team’ of multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley (on uillean pipes, cittern and whistles), ace Celtic fiddler Andy Dinan, and Mark Woolley on percussion. Edmondson is no slouch, either, despite describing his contribution rather self-deprecatingly as "vocals and ‘thrash’ mandolin".

Songs such as ‘I Fought The Law’, ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’, ‘Whole Wide World’, ‘London Calling’, ‘Teenage Kicks’, ‘Up The Junction’ and ‘God Save The Queen’ neatly segue into traditional tunes such as ‘Hag With No Money’, ‘Humours Of Tullah’ and ‘Pinch Of Snuff’, an inspired choice and approach that fuses the best of both musical traditions and produces consistently satisfying results.

Steve Caseman


fROOTS

It really shouldn’t work, but this has quickly become one of my favourite albums of the moment. Adrian Edmondson, famed TV comedian of this parish, teams up with a gang of Celtic folk rockers of a certain age to rework songs of the post-punk/new wave era in their style. Oh yeah? It’s a piss-take, right? Or dead embarrassing, as blokes old enough to know better have a mid-life crisis, mutton dressed as spam...

Well actually, no. Three essential nuggets of truth that Edmondson spotted are: that there are some very good songs hidden behind the fairly unlistenable vocals of Wreckless Eric (Whole Wide World), the pompousness of Kraftwerk (The Model) and the pretentious stylings of Talking Heads (Once In A Lifetime); that there was contemporary storytelling as good as found in many a folk song in Squeeze’s Up The Junction (sung, inexplicably, in a fake American accent on the original) or, the stand out track here, the Jam’s Down In The Tube Station At Midnight; and that freed from the stylistic straitjacket of expectation, putting completely new clothes on PiL’s ultra-catchy Rise and unassailable classics like God Save The Queen, Teenage Kicks or London Calling rather than attempting straight ‘covers’ might just allow them to breathe in a different way. And since he’d become a born-again folk fan, why shouldn’t he pair two of his enthusiasms?

Still, none of that would have worked if he hadn’t then assembled such a skilful band of co-conspirators as Troy Donockley (pipes, cittern, whistle), Andy Dinan (fiddle) and Mark Woolley (bodhran, percussion), or turned out to be a rather good singer and "thrash" mandolin player himself. Now, not only do those guys have bucketfuls of chops, but I have a secret suspicion that the originals of these songs may not have been as central to their youth culture as they clearly were to Edmondson’s. Could this be one of the secrets as to why the arrangements and playing here are so fresh, newly appropriate and energetic rather than reverend? Another, of course, could just be that they get off on playing such a great set of material.

After Jim Moray’s fab reworking of XTC’s All You Pretty Girls into a new folk classic got a Folk Award nomination, there’s now clearly a precedent. If the Bad Shepherds’ new treatment of Down In The Tube Station At Midnight isn’t up for a similar gong next year, there’s no justice. A song is a song is a song...

Ian Anderson



Green Man Review

It’s a funny thing, but then again not. Let me clarify that. A group which exists to perform mainly UK punk and new wave songs of the late 70s and early 80s, but with acoustic instruments and trad tunes interspersed throughout, could easily be written off as a bit of a laugh and nothing more. In this age of crazy mash-ups and genre-hopping galore, it’s not necessarily even anything radical or unexpected.

However, in the case of The Bad Shepherds, it is clearly not meant as just an amusing diversion. They simply enjoy both types of music and see enough similarities to be able to put them together in a complementary way. The important question is whether the pieces work as songs in their own right and the answer is definitely in the affirmative.

If there’s any mashing up happening, it might be with the musicians themselves! The group comprises three well respected UK folk/folk-rock performers - Troy Donockley (Maddy Prior, Iona) and All-Ireland Fiddle Champion Andy Dinan, who are joined by comedian Adrian Edmondson on lead vocals and mandolin.

To just call him a comedian through his work with cult classics such as The Young Ones and Bottom is not entirely fair, however. Edmondson has not only performed with the recently regrouped Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band as well, but it was his idea to put the Bad Shepherds together. His work on the mandolin as a rhythm instrument is entirely apt and holds up well against the other members’ lead melody work. Vocally, his range is maybe a bit limited but it’s definitely expressive and who says you have to be a great singer for new wave music? Or folk for that matter!

The material is largely very well known songs of the era, but with arrangements that make the listener relive them in quite a different way. Examples would include 'London Calling', originally by The Clash but here interspersed with a traditional tune that fits ideally. Or a similar treatment given to the Sex Pistols’ 'God Save The Queen' with the verses spoken sardonically, and a very definite statement of the phrase “we mean it, man”.

In some other cases, it is more the acoustic treatment and choice of instruments that gives a song its unique flavour. The Jam’s 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight' actually sounds like a folk song here and a fine one at that, while 'Up The Junction' (Squeeze) benefits greatly from Donockley’s marvellous uillean pipes, as if it wasn’t already a great song in the first place.

A couple of personal favourites are 'Rise', originally by Public Image Ltd. but here given a more melodic and engaging arrangement, and 'The Model'. The latter again has uillean pipes as the main lead instrument and therefore sounds more organic than the original Kraftwerk version, not that there was anything wrong with that, of course.

In fact, the title track is purely an instrumental medley of folk tunes and it’s an engaging performance, particularly in its unusual context. However, if we choose to believe that 'Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera' is actually the phrase “one two three four” in an ancient dialect used by Cumbrian shepherds, as we are told... then there is still a sort of rustic Ramones theme for consistency’s sake.

Let us not forget the work of guest shepherd Mark Woolley who provides subtle but effective percussion on various tracks, including 'Once In A Lifetime' and 'Whole Wide World'. I’m sure he wasn't chosen to be a guest on the album for his surname alone.

I had no misgivings or preconceptions in the first place when putting the CD in the computer but all I can say is that by the end, I really wanted to play it again. What better proof that it’s a successful combination of styles, and just an entirely enjoyable album? It’s not amusing in a comedic manner, but is certainly an entertaining way to spend 46 minutes of your time. No joke.

Michael Hunter.