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Gutter Anthems

Enter the Haggis

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Album Review

Enter the Haggis are one of Toronto, Canada's best-known Celtic rock bands, and they've been tearing it up north of the border for almost a decade with a sound that mixes rock with plenty of post-punk energy and Celtic folk music. They tour mostly in Canada, although they've made a few excursions into the U.S., mostly along the East and West coast folk and festival circuit. When they do start touring regularly in the U.S., they'll easily build a name for themselves. Gutter Anthems, their seventh album, is another blistering set full of anthemic choruses that will have lovers of both Irish music and rock raising their glasses with cheerful abandon. "The Litter and the Leaves," which uses the album title as its catch-phrase, is a roaring Celtic-punk protest song, the kind of tune the Irish are so good it. It lifts a middle finger to the powers that be and a pint to the working class with energy to spare. Brian Buchanan's vocals and fiddle, Graig Downie's bagpipes, and James Campbell's kickass drumming make it a real rabble rouser. "Noseworthy and Piercy" is the true story of fishermen lost in the raging seas of Newfoundland. An a cappella segment midway through the song captures the horror and hopelessness of the sailors, and the band's furious playing mimics the violence of the sea. "Cameos" is another rocker, a meditation on death, limitation, and illusion, but like many Irish songs, it doesn't mope about lamenting mortality, but dances brightly, laughing in the face of the grim reaper. The band's vocal harmonies and the bouncy tempo keep things moving at a lively pace. "Suburban Plains" is a wistful look at childhood that avoids the usual maudlin clichés. Trevor Lewington's affecting vocal, Downie's pennywhistle, and Campbell's tabla give the tune a nostalgic feel without getting too sappy. "Murphy's Ashes" is a funky rock instrumental dominated by Downie's bagpipes and Lewington's growling guitar. There's a nice piano and bass bridge halfway through to keep you guessing. "Sea of Crutches" is a song about life on the road set to a tune that's perfect for driving down late-night roads; a jaunty melody, mournful lyric, and soulful singing drive the message home. The echoing guitar effects intensify the song's ghostly, forlorn vibe. "The Ghosts of Calico" is another supernatural song, imagining a dead miner still digging through the earth searching for the fortune he never found. It's the most American-sounding tune on the album, all lonesome fiddles, slide guitar, and a pure country vocal from Lewington. American bands like the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly may be mining the same motherlode of Irish song, but Enter the Haggis rise above them by virtue of their splendid musicianship and excellent songwriting skills. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Gutter Anthems, Enter the Haggis
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  • $16.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music
  • Released: 17 March 2009

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