Sharks Come Cruisin – A Past We Forget That We Need Know

Sharks Come Cruisin coverWhen I first read about and heard Rhode Island’s Sharks Come Cruisin I mentally slotted them into place alongside American punk bands who play a spin on Irish folk music, ala. the Dropkick Murphys or the Real Mackenzies. I am prepared to admit that this was stupid and wrong. Actually, Sharks Come Cruisin are more like… hmm. They’re more like a bunch of punks on a replica 18th century seafaring vessel who like the idea of drinking and singing a whole lot more than sailing. Now that’s a sentiment I can get behind!

Equally, if the idea of sea shanties played by guys with electric guitars and a drum kit strikes you as being a little incongruous you may as well move along. There’s always something odd about such bands, and I get that people find it a bit weird – even when it’s presented in a fashion as obviously ridiculous as, say, Alestorm.

Still, for those who like music that stands out purely by dint of being idiosyncratic and fun, Sharks Come Cruisin do have a fair bit to offer. Live I can imagine the band being a lot of fun; on record, perhaps less so, although to glean maximum enjoyment from A Past We Forget That We Need To Know I suggest indulging in some drinking. With a measure of rum and a dose of ascorbic to stave off scurvy, you need nothing more.

I have to admit that this record doesn’t offer a huge amount of variance. In fairness, nor do sea shanties: you mostly get the bawdy songs and the nostalgic songs, and you can slot much of what’s present here along the lines of these basic types. They’re spaced well enough to offer some tonal variance throughout, and at forty-one minutes the album doesn’t quite outstay its welcome. It certainly helps that songs like ‘Farewell to Nova Scotia’ and ‘Liverpool Judies’ are inherently anthemic. The latter, in fact, manages to do an impressive job of impersonating a rowing song… or at least a song that emulates the rhythm of rowing, even while its verses tell a story intended to amuse the listener. Perhaps, then, it’s another drinking song.

At times I’ve found myself finding the vocals a little off-putting; when the band’s lead singer strays outside his drawling comfort zone, the results are imperfect, and sometimes in a way that is less than endearing. Still, for the most part his delivery and style suits the music: he can hold a tune perfectly well and there’s a character to his voice that suits the tone of both the music and concept. Besides, it’s fairly obvious that Sharks Come Cruisin are a band with whom you should be singing along.

Beneath the immediacy of the anthemic punk rock sea shanties on offer there are stories to be told; it’s these that may lend this album some longevity. None have quite captured my imagination, I admit, but regardless I’ve enjoyed listening to these eleven idiosyncratic songs. And, actually, despite my earlier retraction of my first misguided opinion, I can certainly see myself playing these guys alongside material from Flogging Molly (the best of the faux-Irish trad punk rockers, for my money). If you fancy something different, give ’em a punt. Or maybe even a galleon.

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