Anyone who knows anything about Tom Waits will know that ‘Clang Boom Steam’ is the title of one of his songs, and a pretty accurate summation of a large part of his sound. So any band going by that name will be a right unholy racket of American Gothic blues weirdness right? Well right, but what if I told you the guys who made it were a Liverpool-based Irish band?
Weird? Well weird is good, right? Right! It begins with ‘Clan’, a feedback intro leading into a goth-blues stomp, twanging guitars and thick, thick distorted bass. So far, so good, but it’s when singer and guitarist Garvan Cosgrove‘s Northern Irish brogue pipes up that things get really interesting. The band admit to being big fans of Grinderman and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and the high drama and filthy blues of both are much in attendance throughout this album, but Cosgrove‘s blunt baritone gives the band an otherness, a Celtic, Pogues-ish spirit which gives them totally original tonality and character.
This mix is much on display on ‘Good Ship’. It’s The Bad Seeds ‘Red Right Hand’ moved from the weird Wild West to a Celtic port of ill fortune with Clang Boom Steam as evil slavers who have come for your children!
‘Weird Bint’ – (Bint – a much-underused word) is a swinging sea shanty with a walloping great bass, and so full of ‘Hey Ho’s’ it becomes a punky thrasher as Garvan cries ‘Why don’t you just stop breathing?’
Another touchstone is Johnny Cash, although I doubt Johnny would curse as freely as on the grisly ‘You Don’t Love Me’ (‘You don’t love me/I should kick you down some stairs’). It has a snarky dysfunction that reminds me of The Broken Family Band.
The superior taste of the band also shines through on ‘Righteous Man’, in which a Johnny Marr riff by Charlie Mullan drives bible-black Americana, summoning the dark presence of 16 Horsepower. It’s driven by a huge tattoo of drums from Giulio Vaccaro and the heartbeat bass of Conor Simpson; everyone’s a star in this band.
On ‘Diggin Up The Dead’ the band show a more poised, less filthy side. It is a tale of psychological horror in waltz-time with an absolutely haunting guitar line not unlike the work of fellow countryman The Edge.
Similarly classy, the final and greatest track ‘Fort St Gabriel’ sees the band reach their potential by becoming the Bad Seeds as fronted by Johnny Cash, and is an epic horse opera of vast sweep and intensity. It will be on any ‘Best Of’ compilation of the year I make. It’s closing squall of Dick Dale guitar over Stooges rhythmic thuggery is quite awesome. Highly recommended.