The Staggerers

Year of the Bastard

News flash: Tom Waits has commandeered the Chieftains and gone on a whiskey-and-beer bender. Or so it would seem when you listen to Year of the Bastard, the first full-length offering from The Staggerers. Fusing good ol’ punk rock attitude with Irish and American folk music, YOTB is a foot-stompin’ good time, sure to inspire more than a few to grab a pint and pour a shot. The disc opens with “Satan Commands It,” a reversed track that is oddly captivating despite being devoid of melody or discernible vocals. From there YOTB barrels straight into the alcohol-fueled, full-frontal assault that has made The Staggerers a hugely popular attraction on the local music scene.

With a blend of traditional Irish songs and self-penned working-class anthems, YOTB is a very satisfying listen. If I had to pick standouts, “Go To Hell” and its sing-along chorus would be up there. The cheeky “Pitbulls Don’t Play Banjo” marches forward with unrelenting ferocity. Even on the more subdued tracks (“Star of the Country Down,” “Wild Rover” and “Kill the Live”) YOTB swaggers with confidence and unstoppable energy. From start to finish, this is a barn-burner of an album.

What it isn’t is show-offy, faux Americana folk that seems so hip these days. It’s gritty, abrasive and, most importantly, authentic. There’s no high art here, nor is there a lot of overly clever wordplay that tends to invade folksy modern music. (Bright Eyes, I’m looking at you.) The Staggerers strip their music down to the barest essentials and it works beautifully. Equal parts Irish and bluegrass with punk undercurrents, The Staggerers pound out spirited acoustic ditties that are prime drinking music. Sit back, grab a beer (or three) and let it ride. It’s well worth the trip. (Jon Schafer)

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