Hung Like Hanratty
50 Shades Of Shit [Flicknife]
CD/DL – Available Now
Every now and then an album comes along that leaves you a little gob-smacked, the latest release from Hung Like Hanratty is such an album as Alan Ewart discovers.
I must confess I have no idea who Hanratty is, nor do I care to speculate on how he is hung and that pretty much sums up what I knew about Hung Like Hanratty when their latest CD dropped onto my doormat a few weeks back. When a CD arrives and the central feature of the cover is a huge pile of shit on a plate you can perhaps be forgiven for wondering “what the hell have I let myself in for.”
I must confess that on first listen I was still scratching my head. When an album opens with the words “Oscar Pistorius once had a wife, she went for a shit and then she lost her life” a little head scratching is probably in order. As the album continues you discover that Hung Like Hanratty enjoy wrapping often twee lyrics up in a ska-punk vibe full of driving guitar rhythms and delivering it with a sense of fun.
By the time we get to third track “She’s A Monster” it is easy to get wrapped up in those lyrics as the band belt out “she used to be so pretty, she used to be so sweet, now she’s just got huge tits that hang down to here feet” you do wonder what is going on with this album. It sounds misogynistic and borders on body shaming and I suspect that many will interpret it in that way. In many ways that would be a mistake, the song is clearly meant as a dig at the entire concept of body image.
For me at least, this type of vehicle continues through the piece. The key to this album is your ability to understand that Hung Like Hanratty are making social and political points. They do so in a way that leaves the listener to draw their own conclusions. Taken at face value you could conclude that the band have set out to shock and that the lyrics are a means of raising controversy. There are however clear indications that Hung Like Hanratty’s intention is not just to shock but to provoke thought.
This is after all a punk band whose ethos is true to the roots of punk. The political and social messages are writ large across the piece though Hung Like Hanratty did tell Planet Mosh that “some of their songs go down great, others go down like lead balloons.” This is undoubtably the case, not everyone will warm to songs whose focus is on dogs hit on the pavement or tractors on the road.
There is much to like about this album. The playing is excellent and the vocals are brilliantly delivered in real real gruff and aggressive fashion. Above all this is a fun album, a sing-along 40-minutes of thrashing guitars and thumping bass. It’s hard not to like a tune that trashes Simon Cowell and songs that criticise overbearing cops are something we can all relate to.
Whilst Hung Like Hanratty do make political points what is clear is that they try to avoid being a punk-rock cliche. Many of their songs focus on the everyday things that get right up your nose. Barking dogs, our inability to avoid checking our mobile phones every 5-minutes and wheelie bins all get the Hung Like Hanratty treatment. I can imagine that these songs go down an absolute storm in the live arena and they should be seen in that context.
My view on 50 Shades of Shit is a fairly simple one. Give it a listen, it is great fun and taken with that in mind it is an enjoyable piece of work. It gets better with every listen, be careful if you are listening on your iPod as you are wandering round town. You will find yourself singing along and will certainly draw some odd looks.