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Sit down, shut up, and listen.
This isn’t a demand from the Sydney-based Rumjacks regarding their long-awaited second LP, Sober & Godless. It’s the message the band members themselves took from a brief hiatus from music, a message to live by – in a world ruled by electronic devices and short attention spans, it’s solid advice indeed.
It’s also a message which has informed the next stage of their musical journey. It’s a message which imbues the writing that went into Sober & Godless, a collection of stories told by a band who wear their working class roots proudly upon their collective sleeve, and who want nothing more than to make music that touches people, that people can relate to, that tells a story of today.
“This album finds us right here, living very much in the now,” is how frontman Frankie McLaughlin puts it.
Formed in late 2008 by McLaughlin and bass player Johnny McKelvey, The Rumjacks hit the ground running, releasing their debut EP, Hung, Drawn & Ported only a few months later. In late 2009, after a few lineup changes, they followed up with another EP, Sound As A Pound, and in 2010, their debut long-player, Gangs Of New Holland.
They toured hard, played hard, their traditional Irish and Scottish influences melding seamlessly with the folk, punk and rock ‘n’ roll they grew up on, garnering fans far and wide. Then came the aforementioned hiatus, which to the band was seen as a godsend, a time to recharge and regroup, a time to slow down and take stock.
So they sat down, shut up, and listened. And now they’re back with their strongest release to date, the viciously joyous Sober & Godless, a paean to life, love, death, and most importantly, the heart.
“This album centres on the heart, no two ways about it,” concurs McLaughlin, “and in a tight orbit around the heart are themes of near death, lost loves, conflict and cowardice, war, homesickness, fear, triumph – ‘real life’ you might as well say.
“We haven’t tried to reinvent anything, just write really good songs and play them with all our heart for real people, look ‘em straight in the eye and, between us, try and draw something vital out of the moment.”
The album itself was produced by Steve James (Cold Chisel, The Jam, Thin Lizzy), who brought to the project an expertise that, as McLaughlin says, you just can’t buy. “He gave us that record I think that everybody wants to make, when they start out making music,” he adds, “that big, well produced, well rounded, confident record.”
It’s certainly confident. Opening with ‘Home Rule’, which begins in a traditional way, acoustic guitar and tin whistle, before exploding into a thousand punk rock pieces, Sober & Godless stakes its claim and doesn’t back down until the final notes of ‘400 Miles’, the anthemic closer, waver away 14 tracks later.
The album is the mark of a band who’ve grown, who’ve learnt from experiences garnered thus far, and who’ve translated that into an album which will no doubt see them making 2015 their year. It’s an album which is raw and honest, visceral and true, the focus on the stories, on the real life these songs are about.
“Call it Celtic punk, folk, rock or whatever, we have to keep telling each other our story, that’s the only thing that keeps us human,” McLaughlin sums up.
“It’s important for us to be contributive, we feel a responsibility to honour the legacy of those who’ve come before us, whilst being relevant today and leaving a bloody good touch-point for the future.”
The Rumjacks have sat down, shut up, and listened.
Now it’s your turn!!!