Published on May 4th, 2015 | by Mike Ainscoe0
Skinny Lister Reviews Round Up
Live at the Deaf Institute 28.4.15
‘Down On Deptford Broadway’ CD/DL/vinyl
As always it’s been quite a busy time for Skinny Lister, but so it should be for one of the hardest gigging bands on the circuit. They’ve always gadded about somewhere in North America or Japan over the last couple of years, but have played several times in Manchester: upstairs at the tiny Kings Arms and the Night & Day as well as supporting slots with Frank Turner, Boy George and The Levellers. They get around, but then, they must have to gig relentlessly to maintain the payments for their rum consumption.
The Deaf Institute is a perfect venue for The Skinnies, with a bar along the whole of one wall, very useful when your double bass player walks along it and then crowd surfs (with the double bass all the time naturally) back to the stage. Where that stands with health and safety or whether there was a risk assessment as part of the pre gig ritual we shall never know, yet along with the flagon of rum being passed around the crowd (nothing wrong with dozens of people swigging from the same container is there?), and Lorna Thomas taking to the floor for a waltz in ‘Seventeen Summers’, it’s part and parcel of the Skinny’s show.
On the more deep than wide Deaf Institute stage, all five Skinnies, plus the addition of a drummer to the live line up at the rear, stood literally shoulder to shoulder pounding out infectiously riotous songs and sea shanties all accompanied by more “too-rye-ayes” than Dexy’s could shake a fist at and with a packed audience joining in with gusto. Raised hands or raised fists of triumph? More likely a raised pint glass. A couple of down time moments in the set (‘Colours’ and Lorna’s ‘Bonny Away’) were the only concessions in seventy five minutes, verging on twenty songs of non stop high octane folk with a dash of rebellious punk attitude, which the purists would find too far removed from traditional folk music. An abiding memory is standing behind a lady at the front barrier with her hands over her ears during the Skinny set at Cambridge Folk Festival last year.
They could well be The Pogues younger cousins, picking up the mantle of a band with a philosophy based on hard drinking yet fully immersed in enjoying life to the full. The bouncing floor and even more bouncing stage, where the bass drum had to be braced against an instrument box to stop it shifting forward, were testament to everyone buying into that philosophy. Even Brian, the dad of a bloke at the front, who remained rooted at the back against the bar must have been impressed.
Sean McGowan, the self professed “barman and toilet cleaner from Southampton” was the man in the traditional Sonic Bandwagon ‘always see the support band’ position. Confessing to never having played to such a quiet crowd in Manchester, it was great for him to be heard but also slightly scary. “It feels like I’m in my nan’s” obviously referring to the original bay window/velvet curtain /heavy wallpaper which is the style of the Deaf Institute. Think along the lines of Beans On Toast with a hint of Billy Bragg with a delivery more cockney than cockney itself. He fits into the category where basic musicianship is complemented by some clever lyrics. the combination shows that songwriting and singing is as much about passion and feel rather than technical ability.
Skinny Lister’s recently released second album, ‘Down On Deptford Broadway’ (also available on vinyl for the audiophiles) can’t be accused of not delivering the goods. They’ve carved their niche and know what they’re doing and how to do it well. They’ve also been road testing these songs for quite a while now so it’s no surprise that the recorded performance on the album is relaxed and loose – far more so than on the debut ‘Forge & Flagon’, where they possibly had to tone it down a bit, being their first album and all. ‘Down On Deptford Broadway’ shows no signs of anything being toned down and is much more akin to what the spirit of Skinny Lister is about and what you’d hear in a live show. Obviously tied by the restrictions of a studio it does at least go quite some way to the live experience.
It’s also a bolder selection of material, being less of the reflective and slower paced material which took a chunk of ‘Forge & Flagon’, and much more full on and energetic. They’ve paid their dues with all the gigging and the first album, and you feel like they’re now starting to appear on record as they’d like to sound. The belters come in the form of ‘Raise A Wreck’, another unruly and possibly debauched sea shanty which loosens the shackles at the start of the album, ‘Six Whiskies’ (perfect for making your way home at the end of a drunken night), the lead single ‘Cathy’ and ‘Ten Thousand Voices’ although it’s hard not to list most of the record. ‘This Is War’ kicks off in a lively Pogues style jiggery folkery frenzy before another fist clenching, air punching chorus all accompanies with a bottle of beer in the hand naturally.
Skinny Lister have created not so much a monster, but a reputation which is continuing to grow, and in the words of ‘George’s Glass’ have crafted a song which isn’t just a tribute to Lorna and Max’s dad, but a chorus which may well end up rivalling The Levellers’ one way of life clarion call.