This is a review of "Bootscraper" recorded by Bootscraper. The review was written by Rebecca Atkinson in 2012.
Having built themselves a formidable reputation on the back of their fervent live shows there is a great deal of anticipation surrounding the release of Bootscraper's self-titled debut full length record. Describing themselves as aggro-folk-gypsy rock, on paper Bootscraper's music feels like it might be trying to amalgamate too many influences and combine too many instruments to sound anything other than chaotic. In reality the highly skilled writing and clearly defined song structure mean that it works completely. The 7-piece borrow selectively from their diverse influences and combine them to make a truly original and entertaining record.
Opener 'Orphan Sailor Sings' merges gang vocals, strutting percussion and traditional jigs in a manner symptomatic of the rest of the album which is comprised almost entirely of beer-soaked anthems with a distinctly Irish streak. Elsewhere 'Who Are You' (the video for which is currently doing the rounds on the internet) brings a more Balkan vibe with a Tom Waits inspired vocal and disgustingly contagious chorus. It's a perfectly formed two and a half minutes as gypsy rhythms rise and fall and the accordion and guitar combine beautifully during a mini-instrumental break whilst the rattling percussion carries the track along assuredly.
'The Suffering' opens in a more contemplative manner, demonstrating another facet to their sound. The layered vocals in particular are more subtle than anything that has come before, centring around the simple refrain 'I can't wait to see you suffering' before their signature foot stomping euphoria kicks back in. 'Thieves Anthem' follows suit, revelling in its profanity and the Celtic-tinged punk at its heart. It is reminiscent of Flogging Molly and The Pogues before them, mischievously paying homage to brotherhood, good times and misbehaviour. 'Catch Me If You Can' is a more straight-forward punk rock affair. Sounding slightly like The Clash but underpinned by a swaggering banjo part, it builds steadily alongside the chorus into a real earworm making it probably the most accessible track on the record. That said it is 'Spit Shine Joe' which is Bootscraper's real standout track. Like an aggro 'Bohemian Rhapsody', it is an ambitious eleven-minute, four part segmented piece with no discernible chorus. Combining elements of Latin, punk, Americana, gypsy and country it serves as an allegory for the band's sound throughout the rest of the album; eclectic, experimental and accomplished.
There is no doubt that Bootscraper are one of the best bands on the live circuit and capturing their voracious energy on record was always going to be a difficult task but this eponymous offering manages to do just that. Bootscraper is a triumph. It's unapologetic, overblown and wonderfully written all at once, every track could stand alone as a single and there isn't a weak moment amongst the fifty on display here.