Regular readers of this blog will know I have a lot of time for ukulele punk outfit The pUKEs, so was thrilled to get my hands on their new full album 'Too Drunk To Pluck'.
The pUKEs are a pretty massive gaggle / collective of punk fans who also have their soft spots for the ukulele. Founded by Clara Wiseman (who herself had a previous music career with acts like the UK Subs) there is real punk heritage across the board too and the album itself was recorded and produced by Patrick Collier of the Vibrators.
They are an outfit I've kept an eye on for several years now and have watched them get increasingly impressive gig bookings (including touring with Bad Manners), get Arts Council funding for their excellent ukulele punk workshops across the UK, and also writing their own stuff, complete with always brilliant videos. Can they translate that success into a full album?
The first thing that pleased me was to see that this was not just a covers album. Its actually a pretty even mix of covers and pUKEs originals. Performed with lead vocals from Clara and Debs, each track comes with great gang vocals from the rest of the band in true collective style that works really well.
It kicks off how it means to go on with a cover of the Ramones 'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker' at full tilt before moving straight into the pUKEs original 'Fight Song', which I recently shared the video for on this blog. In fact the video for that shows you exactly what the pUKEs are about!
We race through Holiday in Cambodia by the Dead Kennedys, through to Banned From The Pubs by Peter and The Test Tube Babies before we come back to one of the first professional videos I saw by the pUKEs - another original written by Clara Wiseman 'Will I Learn'. I still adore this song.
Dismedley by Discharge gives over to another original written by Cil Wong called '453' which is another high point on the album for me.
By this point you should have the real feel of the album and that is one of classic punk, with a ukulele flavour (well, naturally eh?). But this is anything but a 'ukulele album'. Sure the ukes are there, clearly, but the album is very well put together and full force in sound with great driving drums and bass throughout. Hey - its punk - what do you expect? George Formby?? (no, please don't tell me you were expecting Formby....)
12XU by Wire is covered, then another Wong original called Turn It Off, before we come to another song that the pUKEs put out on video to a great response - Because You're Young by East London punk outfit Cock Sparrer.
And after all that.. we calm down a touch for the close and a great cover of Baby Baby by the Vibrators. I thought this one was really nicely delivered and makes for a calm closer and shows they are not a one trick pony. Minimal punk strumming here, but more picking and great harmonies on the voices. Throughout the album, they sound like they are having an absolute ball, as the videos show. There is clever songwriting on display here (yes, in a punk band...) with a nice balance of humour and angst, but a band who have clearly put the work in to get their sound tight and biting is also clearly evident.
And with that, the exquisite punk styled CD packaging and a typical punk running time of just under 30 minutes it ticks all the boxes for current or lapsed (like me) punk fans out there. But I take my hat of to them all for another important reason. At the present time, the ukulele world is becoming quite polarised between the 'traditional', the 'You Can't Do That' brigade' (aka 'The Ukulele Police') and those who are trying to push out in different directions. The pUKEs sit firmly in the latter camp. And if the album sends a big middle finger to those that think the ukulele can only be for one style and one style only - well.... if that isn't punk I don't know what is. Good on them I say.
( Too Drunk To Pluck is released on 4 August and can be obtained from pUKEs central at http://thepukes.co.uk/drunk-pluck/ on both CD and limited green vinyl. It will also release on iTunes on the same day)
1. Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
2. Fight Song
3. Holiday In Cambodia
4. The Ballad Of Mickey Fitz
5. Banned From The Pubs
6. Will I Learn
10. Turn It Off
11. Because You're Young
12. Baby Baby