Dolomites

A Hogshead of Whiskey
(Walking Records)

Dolomites provide a curious geographical anomaly, considering they're Irish by way of Portland and take their name from the soaring limestone spires of the Italian Alps. But as pint-hoistin' pub bands go, this acoustic quintet conveys as universally Celtic a feeling as getting shit-plastered on St. Paddy's Day, or nigh every saint's day, for tha' matter, lads.

With less punk conviction than either the Pogues or Flogging Molly, the spleeny 'mites take a more traditional route to ripping up the Guinness-soaked floorboards. Underprivileged, underdressed and, for the most part, unplugged, the merry lot mates bouzouki, accordion, banjo, mandolin, guitar and drums with a tried-and-true fast-patter rhyming scheme that sings from the loins as much as from the bottle. Nautically themed tunes like "Lobotomy Bay" -- a brain-dead bloke's shore-leave chanty -- give cheer to the sea with blarney 'n' drink, and launch the group's stateside recording debut with a swimming head o' poetic foam that's romantic, if not a skosh suicidal: "The wind makes us cry as we look to the sky/We howl at the moon to relinquish our doom/But all of the booze had induced us to snooze/We set fire to water, we drowned and we burned." Sod the heroic couplets, barkeep, and tilt us a bleedin' 'nother!

Sad as an empty keg, the blithe and bonny "Molly Malone" would make the none-too-wee liver o' Dylan Thomas explode -- sure 'n' be gory. And rousing worksongs like "The Entrepreneur" raise martyred Richard Corey once again atop the wage slave's broad shoulders; unsatisfied eating asbestos in bread, the song's angry mob puts its oppressor in the cold ground with a chirpy sentiment indeed: "And even if he can convince God to let his soul be saved/He can't prevent the twenty of us from pissing on his grave." The pogo-happy "Bollocks of Uranis" and "Hangman's Reel" are both upbeat instrumentals for a good-natured donnybrook, an unholy mess as frightening as Shane McGowan's dental X-rays.

For all its defiantly ribald glee, however, there's an overall sense of having been there, and done that, making Dolomites no more or less remarkable than, say, whichever roving band of Bolivian minstrels happens to be blowing panpipes on the nearest street corner. It's perfectly reliable stuff -- tasty, worldly and enjoyable -- but just a little predictable. The most interesting tracks experiment with samples and loop processing ("Regressing of Edification") or dabble in the blunt-force trauma of exaggeratedly loud drum leveling (the aforementioned "Lobotomy Bay"), recalling Bowie's Low period. But it's fun and hearty pub fare nonetheless, steeped in a Dubliner's tradition of telling stories through rounds and laments while casting a jaundiced eye for detail toward "the whore in the corner all ready to scratch." Gaw, bloimey!

 
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