Album Review: Sons of Southern Ulster – Sinners and Lost Souls

It would be hard to talk about the new album from Sons of Southern Ulster and not to reference the currently exploding Fontaines D.C. – the same vein is gloriously plowed: Irish punk poetry wrapped in a visceral anger and melody. Given Sons of Southern Ulster’s debut album ‘Foundry Folk Songs) came out in 2016 (with presumably the same style) could lead to the suggestion that the Sons have had some influence on the current spate of post punk bands from Ireland, but that is of little consequence: their new album, in its own right, is a spectacular and entirely cathartic blast of post punk that stands alone.

The lyrics are explicit, raw and honest – not always spat out in stream of conscious raps but often cloaked in melody and subtlety – see for example ‘Terylene Men’ and ‘Mrs McDonag’. Political, visceral and steeped in history but beautifully expressed in an elegaic way. Indeed the punk mentality is fused with a folk sensibility – detailed stories mixed in with hot blasts of emotion.

David Meagher says of the songs:

Set in 1980s Ireland caught between the old and the new, these songs paint a vivid warts n’ all picture of life in a borderland, trapped between showbands, lounge bars and punk rock. The stories detail life on the margins steeped in petty jealousies, broken hearts and insecurities and where the heroes belch and fart like the rest of us.

‘They Say I Live in the Past’ presents the raw and visceral punk poetry that reminds one of their compatriots from Dublin: it’s honest, gritty and above all has a sense of veracity. This is a singer that has lived through the tales being told. Earnest and passionate lyrics scatter across a brutal and clattering instrumentation:

This is continued in ‘Feel My Scorn’ which is infused with a sense of anger and frustration which is leavened by a vaulting chorus and insistent rhythms:

I’m reminded of elements of Nick Cave and Alabama 3 – the excoriating preacher’s rant, relentlessly mixing hectoring with story-telling.

‘Polaris’ is a reflective and sombre track that nods to folk traditions of telling tales with its anthemic chorus and its inherent beauty and grace:

This album is a revelation: it is an album that fuses both a folk tradition with a punk sensibility – and after all, both art forms are born from oppression and conflict to provide a cathartic release. There is a bridge here between The Pogues and the Dropkick Murphys to the more modern Murder Capital and of course Fontaines D.C..

A sense of geography must be acknowledged – the band come from Cavan, a town close to the border with Northern Ireland, a region steeped in history and conflict.

‘Sinners and Lost Souls’ can be ordered from the band through the link below. The hard copy of the album features a booklet with lyrics aligned to a series of sketches artwork by legendary artist Claus Castenskiold (album covers of The Fall’s ‘Perverted By Language’ and ‘Mother Juno’ by the Gun Club).

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