Over the past month I have come across two albums by hitherto unknown bands: Anglo-Saxon and the Black Tartan Clan. One of the beauties of the internet is the ease with which unsigned bands are now able to showcase their work on websites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube for anyone in the world to find.
The Black Tartan Clan take the ‘bagrock’ of the popular Red Hot Chilli Pipers a step further with their ‘Celtic Punk’ sound, a hard-edged foot-stomping fusion of pipes, drums bass guitar and pulsating punk rhythms.
Sounds terrific, you might think, so whereabouts in Scotland do these lads hail from? That’s the odd thing. The band was formed in 2008 in Belgium of all places! Despite this, they sing in English and have managed to gather a popular following in Scotland itself where they have played a few gigs in places as far apart as Kirkwall and Dumfries.
The Black Tartan Clan has followed its last album Boots, Kilts’n'Pipes with a superb 20-track double CD, The Loyal Men. On this album you’ll find the band’s take on such bagpipe standards as Highland Cathedral, The Hills of Argyll and Amazing Grace sitting along their own original songs and covers of some old punk hits from the days of my youth. Their version of Sham 69’s If the Kids are United will have you wanting to get up and dance till you drop.
Check out the band on MySpace where you can listen to a few sample tracks. They even have a couple of videos up on YouTube. Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band it ain’t but it is a lot of fun!
By contrast, Anglo-Saxon isn’t having quite so much fun. The band’s recent album Endangered Species brings together rock’n’roll, folk and metal styles to decry the state of modern England and make a passionate stand for what is right. Lead singer Gary Marsden had the unnerving experience of having his house raided by police because of a complaint made about one of the songs which, for good measure, is offered in both a live mix version and an unaccompanied acoustic versionon this album. This song criticised the 7/7 bombers and the attitudes that spawned them in the lyrics,
‘They took the passport and the Pound
but then they bombed the Underground
but they’ll never destroy the land of hope and glory
Two other songs, This is not a Crusade and Lest we Forget 7/7 explore similar themes. You might have thought that such sentiments are self-evidently true, and in the end no charges were bought against the songwriter. However, he has suffered for his art and for telling the truth as he saw it; he has lost his job and has had some difficulty getting another one.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s some nifty guitar work in this album Look out for the original song This Thing Called Rock’n’Roll and a fine version of the traditional folksong, Scarborough Fair. As is the case with the Black Tartan Band, you can also access Anglo-Saxon on MySpace and YouTube. This album and individual tracks can be downloaded on iTunes or you can get a physical CD from the band’s website.