The Pokes ‘High Hopes’ – album review
The Pokes ‘High Hopes’
ANR Music (ANR043)
CD/LP/Download – Available now
There has always been a strong argument that folk music is the original rebel music, the music of the people, and historically through that music the people challenged the land owners, challenged the state and wrote the stories that recounted these acts; perhaps therefore it could be argued that folk is in fact the true punk rock”Â¦
Berlin based Anglo German folk-punks The Pokes have obviously given this conundrum some thought, for on ‘High Hopes’ their third full length album what you get is both folk music and punk rock; each track is composed and structured with a level of energy and aggression you would expect from any other punk by numbers release, however The Pokes play traditional folk instruments inc banjo, violin, and two accordions – you get the raw 1-2-3-4 energy but with a refined edge.
The seven piece describe themselves “Not Irish, not traditional – Just poking the fire’
They have been together since 2005, and comprise members with musical backgrounds stemming from punk, hardcore, metal and world music, their two previous releases were well received so in an effort to capture their unique sound High Hopes’ was recorded at Monongo Studio (Berlin) with producers Jim Voxx and Dirk Faehling (Motorhead & Tangerine Dream).
There is a Celtic/Irish tinge, but they are right, it’s not Irish; the music is played with traditional instruments, but again they are right, it’s not traditional. Don’t think The Pogues, don’t think The Bad Shepherds even, though that is perhaps the nearest comparison, though what The Pokes do is play their own music, and music that will lift the spirits of any audience; title track ‘High Hopes’ utilises the vocal ‘Hi-ho’ refrain from Snow White & The Seven Dwarves; for the remainder of the album the accordion and the banjo are so neatly woven together its hard to differentiate each instrument, they sit high in the mix, underpinned by some taut even snappy snare, but still find room for the violin and a gruff barked vocal that delivers a lyrical finesse in English bar the final bonus track ‘Ich Werde Verfolgt’ (I Am Pursued) .
Personal favourites; ‘Dinosaur’ which has an insistent pace and some neat violin and questions the worlds current headlong rush to greater dependence upon technology – the ready to dance pace continues on both ‘Do’s and Don’ts’, ‘Time Is Up’ and album highlight ‘Gone Is Gone’ which has a simple but compelling sing-a-long chorus.
‘High Hopes’ is currently only available in the UK as an import – it’s a foreign release, however bar the aforementioned ‘Ich Werde Verfolgt’ which utilises a traditional German Oompah-Pah, beer-hall sound there is little on offer to identify the geographic source of the material, and that’s the beauty of ‘High Hopes’ – it transcends both musical and physical borders; its different though remains accessible.
The Pokes have successfully created their own identifiable sound, in addition with the use of Disney and beirkeller sounds the have injected a huge dollop of fun into the mix; there is also a tongue in cheek attitude on display; ‘Could You Please’ details an aspiring lovers efforts to charm a suitor; he takes her to art galleries, the theatre, but in the end longs for her to “get you knickers off”
The Pokes have clearly taken the brave decision to singularly retain a folk core; it would have been easy to throw in a few guitar solos, crank up the bass and become another band picking up the crumbs left by The Dropkick Murphy’s, Real McKenzie’s – perhaps you should be as brave; find room for The Pokes in your record collection.
The band are currently offering via their website a selection of free downloads with material being drawn from all of their albums.