The Great Malarkey: Badly Stuffed Animals – album review

The Great Malarkey: Badly Stuffed Animals (Clearcut Records)
CD/DL/LP
Out: 5th Nov 2012

With echoes of Mano Negra, The Pogues and ‘Tombstone Blues’ era Dylan pumping from the speakers, east London folk-punks The Great Malarkey are announcing their début album in style. Here’s our review.

Breakneck opener ‘Moneybags’ sees singer Alex Ware making a celebratory attempt to right the wrongs of uber-trendy Dalston all the way up to Marc Bolan’s Stamford Hill, but not getting too tied up in the ‘isms. With a sound clearly honed on the road and at countless festivals where crowd pleasing is, evidently, one of the Malarkey’s natural side effects, it’s hard not to be swept up in the sheer enthusiasm of their gang-band mentality, political indignation and infectious playing.

In part, a swirling mariachi mosh-pit of an album akin to their rated live shows, judging by the mass of exhausted bodies in the audience photos on their website, they also show a subtle side both on the record and in their excellent videos. All clanking banjos, waltz macabre fiddles and skanking shanty accordion vamps. Brechtian thrupenny epics with pencil skirts, rolled sleeves and sepia references to slums past, present and future, they manage to pull off, with more style, the kind of mini promo films that have mired many an upstart chancer in quasi-Victorian naffness and whisky galore bravado: mainly due to the aforementioned political current charging their lyrical batteries.

These people are righteously angry but they sure know how to turn it into fun. There’s no dreary ranting or dog-on-string nihilism here: pure acoustic energy punked up with a Balkans twist, taut arrangements with shades of ‘Las Vegas Tango’-era Gil Evans, dervishly Anatolian in places, delivered by an unfeasibly tight outfit and offset by vocals which defy comparison with the usual female icons, searing a path of their own. Tunes galore and styles aplenty while maintaining a consistency of sound and production, an album worth its weight in gold banjo, or saz strings: catty, gutsy and clever, a celebration of influences past and ongoing in a clearly beloved east London. Ten romantic refusals to stop enjoying life, in the face of ceaseless commerce and careless government.

The Great Malarkey’s website can be found here. They are also on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

All words by Peter Bennett. More features by Peter on Louder Than War can be found here.

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