Right now we’re living through strange times, we’re all looking for means of escapism (in some cases, literally), something to distract us from the bleak headlines or the realities of life in lock-down. Thankfully artists are adapting, we have bedroom gigs and virtual tours as means of entertainment and there are new releases to savour, as long as you’re prepared to search through virtual racks rather than HMV.
Birmingham’s favourite rag-taggle gypsy folk punks, Johnny Kowalski And The Sexy Weirdos, having recently welcomed, Katherine McWillliam (of Quill fame) on violin, decamped to Old Smithy’s Recording Studio and rattled out a brand new, seven track affair over a mere two days. Capturing the outfits energetic live sound, while blending their usual mix of political bite, anti-establishment anthems, social commentary and the odd instrumental gypsy punk hoe-down to stunning effect.
Marching drums (courtesy of Matthew Osborne) and the violin of McWilliam introduces the opening title track before a choppy Kowalski punk riff joins the mix. The band stir up a lively gypsy shanty bringing to mind a spunkier take on folk supergroup Bellowhead, only fronted by the Brummie brogue of ringmaster Johnny. Aptly Kowalski croons ‘We could live like pirates, each day standing tall, fuck and fight for freedom until the day we fall’ as the band gloriously stagger from port to starboard, hinting at previously heard ska influences along the way.
Flowers For Antifa sees a distinct change of style, an elastic funky post-punk bass riff leads the proceedings, before Kowalski adds a Strummer like vocal. The band embellish with a rush of riffs, beats and sawing strings as the Weirdos bare their political teeth, in a bit to warn off those that fall for fascist figureheads and their supporting media entourage. The hard hitting lyrics are equally matched by a band at the top of their game moving from spiky punk to a darker yet more melodic mid section before Kowlaski gives into his rage for one final (near hardcore) frenzy.
Smug Song continues to see Kowalski and his cohorts mix things up. A good time rock ‘n’ roll riff is joined by rolling pattered percussion (Llias Lintzos complimenting the drums of Osborne) to form an instantly infectious groove before an unexpected McWilliam solo spins the track in a folky direction as the band straddle genres and convention during an addictive three minute floor filler.
Batch Music, the first of two instrumentals blends striking guitars and fiery fiddle with lulling melodies as the band flex their musical muscles on a mesmeric slice of Celtic inspired rock, before miltary drums and flights of gypsy fiddle lead us to circus gates and the wonderfully woozy, Next Year. The curiously titled, second instrumental, Anarchist Barbeque (Egg For McGregor) again sees those Celtic (and perhaps Quill) influences bubble to the surface once more as the band briefly take flight, before Kowalski wrestles back control to soundtrack conversations with the dead by throwing gypsy folk, searching fiddle, enchanting percussion and punk chants into the mix for a suitable offbeat and engaging finale in the shape of The Dead Yard.
In unprecedented times we need free-thinkers, mavericks and distractions from the norm, we need both fun and provocation, originality and a hook, so turn off Radio One, ignore the mass media and look no further than Johnny Kowalski And The Sexy Weirdos and their brand new album Until The Day for all your soundtrack needs.
By: Will Munn